Part I: TCK SPOTLIGHT- Korean Military service experience

“I’m not quite sure the exact age but when you’re 18 or 19 you’re required to serve the country. If you have any disabilities they’ll put you in a county service center but if not, if you’re a man they’ll send you to either the military, army, air force, marines corps or whatever.”

When you’re a male Korean citizen, you’re required to give some of your time to the military. It doesn’t matter what branch, just as long as you serve the country.

Won (far right) is back in the office from a night of midnight patrolling with his friends. Photo credits: WonSeop Suh.

WonSeop (pronounced WanSup, but he goes by Won) he chose to serve his two years and two months in the air force where for most of his time he did translation work.

So what was your experience like? What did you do while you were in the air force?

“I was chosen to be a military police and a counter terrorism special tactic force. I was in there as well. So I was mostly guarding the gates. If there was a helicopter coming in I would guard the helicopter. If there was a plane coming in I would guard the plane. If there was a ceremony I would hold the flags and all that stuff. And we’d do counter terrorism strategies, counter attacks and all that stuff.”

(Below you can hear Won’s quote)

Won was located in a place called Gojin, south of the 36 parallel line, or, the division between North and South Korea. To put in perspective, it is about a 20 minute car ride from the border line.

Won in his military uniform. Photo credit: WonSeop Suh.

What type of training did you go through for that?

“To get into the air force it’s not that hard, you have to have a fit body that’s all you need. Whether you’re fat or not fat, or if you’re too thin or too weak or anything, they’ll make you fit. Besides that I was trained on technical terms like how to shoot a gun, how to disassemble a gun, how to capture someone.”

As far as translating, Won had to learn a lot of different terms you need to know such as special terms or codes. For example they would say to Won, “7979”, and that means, “got it, roger”.

“There’s many words like that, I had to memorize that. I had to memorize the special terms when I’m translating, who the names are or what the hierarchy is, organization and all that stuff.”



As a culturally blended individual, Won’s experiences gave him special skills in the military. And then six months later he got a special call.


Click HERE to see Part 2 of this story.


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