Military Service and Support for Unification

South Korean marines train at Baengnyeong Island near the North Korean border. Photo credit Seo Myeong-gon / Yonhap / AP.

South Korea is a little bit smaller than Kentucky, yet it has the sixth-largest standing military in the world. There is only one country that is remotely similar in size with a comparable military: North Korea.

Because the war between North and South Korea is technically still ongoing, military service in both Koreas is compulsory, though only for men. In the South, all men must serve for two years. In the North, it’s ten years. We know instinctively that the North Korean military is drastically different from the U.S.’s, just as almost everything about North Korean society is drastically different from ours. The compulsory service in the South, though, also makes the South Korean military quite different from what we’re used to here, and it affects not only the military itself but also society at large in interesting ways. Continue reading