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[Opinion] Female Reserve Troops

Posted March. 23, 2004 23:37,   


It is said that the most unbearable thing for Korean women is when men talk about their experiences during their military duty services. Moreover, people say that if men start talking about their soccer matches they had during the service; all women in the vicinity would disappear. These are funny jokes showing how strongly the “military service” experience becomes a strong bonding one between Korean men. Commonly, two male strangers easily get along once they begin to compare their duty numbers and their service experiences.

The memories reserve troops have during their regular training is no less then the memories of duty services. After finishing their duties, the temporarily mobilized reserve troops feel that they are on the top of the world, still feeling that they are young, although they have to go through skipping work for several days. This is probably the reason why adult men, normally mature and fine, show a goofy attitude and behavior in their frog-like uniforms (the one for reserve troops’ training), and might be their distorted way of exhibiting their youth. Then years later, men start to realize that they are getting old if the notification of reserve troops’ training is not delivered to their homes. The memory of “obnoxiously ignoring the commands by the soldiers in active service, who are as young as their brothers” at the training school becomes faded. Instead, the burdensome responsibility as heads of families oppresses them.

Another exclusive possession for men seems to have gone. For the first time under the command of the army, a female reserve platoon has officially been born in Namsan-myeon, Chuncheon, in Gangwon Province. Sixty-five females in their 30s to 60s have various jobs such as housekeepers, merchants, and farmers. When I picture them sweating and getting training in heavy steel helmets and uniforms for reserve troops, I happen to smile beamingly. Some of them are said to have sons in the military service now. It reminds us anew of maternal love.

It is known that Israeli women get military training from age 13 and have to finish two years of military duty. Then they are assigned to the reserves until they reach age 50. For a long time, Koreans have taken a wise mother and a good wife as virtuous models for women, but the number of women who volunteer for military service is increasing more and more. So we don’t need to give strange looks to the female reserve platoon. By the way, if this situation continues, wouldn’t the days come when women ostracize men with their experiences of military service and training for the reserves?

Editorial Writer Song Moon-hong, songmh@donga.com