Why Military Service Should Never Be Mandatory


Leah Alder

Many posters like this one are posted around the school to generate student interest in joining the military.

Under the law, South Korea requires all able-bodied men to serve 18 to 21 months in the military once they turn 30. This is because of their close neighbor, North Korea, and the country trying to arm with nuclear weapons. 

The topic of this required military service has been brought up recently in the news because of the South Korean K-pop group BTS and their fast-approaching required service time. Their oldest member, Kim Seokjin, is soon to be enlisted when he turns 30 in December. The group members were previously granted 2-year extensions.

The country had been considering for a long time entirely revoking the members’ service time and allowing them to forego it. The members, however, since the beginning, have stated that they were going to complete their military time and that they would be proud to serve their country. So, all members will eventually be enlisted and complete their time when they turn 30.

Military service should never be required, no matter the circumstance, because everyone deserves to live the life they want, and someone’s service to their country should only be their honorable choice.

This mural is a depiction of the Marine Corps War Memorial, and its purpose is to encourage patriotism and remembrance. (Leah Alder)

In the case of the South Korean government, they have made exceptions for certain celebrities and important figures in their society for only reasons of family emergencies and injuries. BTS, having no family situations or physical deformities that would deem them unable to serve, were seriously considered by the South Korean government to be exempt as well.

This is not in the least bit fair. This would be giving the group a serious advantage over everyone else and would allow them luxuries that the common people and even other influential figures in South Korea, couldn’t afford to enjoy.

Off of the topic of BTS though, also according to the law in South Korea, no woman is required to serve in the military, but they are allowed to if they want to do so. This is another unfair factor of this law.

It is also noted that most importantly, patriotism cannot be forced. Patriotism is defined as devotion and vigorous support for one’s country, and people should express this of their own free will.

Unlike BTS, there are many people who have other obligations and maybe don’t support their country and their government’s actions, so they wouldn’t ever even consider risking their lives to serve it. To be forced to serve your country and possibly risk your life for an allotted amount of time in your life, especially in your 30s, sounds horrifying. 

Having the majority of men in their 30s in the country serve and leave their careers for an extended period of time could also be damaging in other ways. It is stated that South Korea stands to lose billions of dollars as a result of BTS serving in the military.

Also, according to a study in 2018, they contribute about $3.6 billion to the South Korean economy yearly, equivalent to the contribution of 26 medium-sized businesses. It is a large sum of money, and therefore could be detrimental to the country.

South Korea also has one of the longest required service times, second only to North Korea. One’s time can vary depending on whether one is assigned to a position in active or non-active duty, and it’s not the choice of the person itself either. Any system like this in any country would require no freedom to be granted to the person, despite the fact that they’re already being forced to make the ultimate sacrifice of risking their lives to serve.

It is because of these various reasons that mandatory military service, in general, without even the unfairness of South Korean law involved, should never be instilled, for serving your country should be a noble choice made by the individual and the individual only.