June 29, 2005
Written by C.N.
Salon.com has an interesting article about the recent rash of incidents involving South Korean soldiers along the Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea. Apparently, a soldier recently killed eight other military personnel and two others committed suicide while stationed at the DMZ. The articles speculates that two factors may be at the heart of these incidents — (1) a culture that tolerates abuse against soldiers in the South Korean army and (2) a new generation of South Korean men who are used to a pampered lifestyle:
Two years of military service is compulsory for South Korean men, and the army is notorious for mistreatment of conscripts. After a trooper killed eight fellow soldiers Sunday, the Defense Ministry admitted a culture of harassment permeates the military, and President Roh Moo-hyun called for a review of discipline. . . .
South Korean media have been filled with commentary questioning whether a generational divide is to blame. Today’s young people are more focused on individualism and are living in more prosperity than their parents did, and they are growing up at a time when they see the Seoul government striving to reconcile with the North. . . .
“I thought the military was something worth experiencing for boys, but I worry something like this will happen,” said Kim Sun-young, 46, a university lecturer whose 21-year-old son has finished half of his army stint. “It is every mother’s horror that they lose their child to something like this.”
These incidents are pretty tragic of course. At the same time, they highlight how there seems to be a clash between traditional versus contemporary culture. Traditional culture is represented by the decades-old policy of two years of mandatory military service for South Korean men and the acceptance of abuse against enlisted personnel in the military (reminds me of some of the controversy at the U.S. Air Force Academy, come to think about it). On the other hand, contemporary culture is represented by the new generation of South Korean men who grew up with very little knowledge and understanding of the Korean War.
With these incidents in mind, it seems as though something will have to give — one of the two cultures will have to change more than the other. History tends to show that in most cases, it’s the newer culture that generally wins in the end.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "South Korean Soldiers in the DMZ" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2005/06/south-korean-soldiers-in-the-dmz/> ().
Short URL: http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/?p=104