You've probably heard how South Korean men are required to enlist and serve in the military. It may be news from your favorite K-drama actor or K-pop idol. But here's a much deeper understanding of why this policy exists.
In 1957, Korean Military Service officially became mandatory and has been part of Korean culture. It's also written in their Constitution under Article 39, which states that every citizen of South Korea is mandated to serve in the national defense under certain conditions.
After an individual reaches the age of 19, as per the Korean count of age, all Korean men have to take an intensive medical examination by the government to determine if they are qualified to serve. There are mainly three results; an active armed force, civilian service, or a complete exemption from serving, may it be due to an individual's physical or psychological condition.
Depending on where they want to render their service, the time of enlistment varies depending if they opt to join the Korean Army or Marine Corps; they'll be required to serve for a year and a half. If they choose to fill in the Korean Navy, they have to do 20 months and 22 months for the Air Force. At the same time, civilian service takes the longest time of required serving time, lasting up to 1 year and nine months.
Exemption to the service varies. Aside from the individual's condition, one can be indirectly exempted under the "arts and sports personnel" upon recommendation by the Minister of Culture, Sports, and Tourism. People who qualify for this exemption can do voluntary activities in their expertise for two years and ten months. These include doctors, lawyers, and expert researchers who can do "supplementary" services.
With all these conditions, Korean men can choose to enlist whenever they want between ages 19 to 28. They can also postpone their service five times, but service must occur before they reach 30.
South Korea's primary objective for having mandatory military service is to Deter the North. Still, the tension between South and North has been more intense in the past century, but changes and adjustments happened as time also changed.