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Run BTS: South Korean Military

All men in South Korea have to enlist in military service after the age of 18 and have to complete their duties before the age of 28. What must be the implications and values this imparts on young impressionable men who start their adult lives immersed in such violence? If the country they are born in tells them that they must partake in such brutal activities before some of them have even gone to universities or figured out what kind of people they are?


The recently released Netflix series “D.P” also centered around such questions when it delved into the military culture of South Korea and revealed the inhumane and vile treatment that many men go through during their conscription. The toxic masculinity and the survival of the fittest mindset that such spaces promote has long lasting impact on the mental health of many who have no way of avoiding such duties because this leads to jail time. Moreover, normalising such violence can allow these men to consider violence as the only solution to many problems which is deeply dangerous and harmful.


It is no coincidence that such enlistment is mandatory right before the age that people attend universities. Because universities are usually more liberal and encourage discussion between different perspectives, the men who enlist in the military may find purpose in guns and blood instead of books and classrooms and choose to devote their lives to the military instead of going to a university.


Interestingly enough, South Korea recently made an amendment to the law stating, "a pop culture artist who was recommended by the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism to have greatly enhanced the image of Korea both within the nation and throughout the world" could delay their enlistment till the age of 30. This amendment came after one of the members of the famous K-Pop group BTS had just turned 28 without having enlisted. This caused controversy in the country, where certain people called out the government for the hypocrisy of the law and the special treatment it had bestowed.


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Wouldn't you say that series like 'D.P' provide an exaggerated viewpoint of the issue by amalgamating and generalizing a number of rare instances of military abuse? Using normally socially uncouth means to instill discipline and obedience is a characteristic of most, if not all, armies. Isn't it some what dramatized more in South Korean media because of the compulsory exposure of the general public to this strict culture for a limited time period during which they are unable to acclimatize?

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You raise very important questions! Honestly, from the many different depictions of the army in media and literature, and the way men are told to treat each other, I don’t think D.P is very exaggerated. In 2020 alone, there were 946 reported cases of violence and misconduct in the South Korean military. And while I do think that all armies have a very toxic and demeaning culture, forcing citizens to fight for the military when they are as young as only eighteen without giving them the option to choose another path in life is very cruel. It is also important to question this violent culture because only men are forced to serve in the military, and they are called derogatory…

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