The military has decided to omit the word "minjok," which refers to the Korean race, from the oath of enlistment for officers and soldiers, and replace it with "the citizen." The measure reflects the growing number of foreigners who gain Korean citizenship and of children from mixed marriages entering military service.
Article 5 of the law governing military service stipulates that new officers and enlisted soldiers have to swear "utmost loyalty to the nation and the race as a soldier of the Republic of Korea." One military official said, "The change will apply immediately at the upcoming enlistment ceremony for officers on April 26 and all thereafter."
The military says the changes reflect the shifts in Korean society, which is becoming increasingly multicultural. "The need for the change in wording was raised after an enlistment ceremony in March," said Park Moon-young of the Defense Ministry. "There were concerns that the word 'minjok' could make conscripts from multicultural families feel alienated. We believe that the military needs to accept the reality of a growing number of multicultural families in Korea."
Due to a persistently low birth rate, fewer young men are eligible for mandatory military service, while the number of multicultural families is increasing. According to the Ministry of Public Affairs and Security, there were 103,400 children (52,800 males) from multicultural families as of 2009. And among them, 6,431 were between the ages of 16 and 18.
In January, the military scrapped a rule excluding males of mixed-race families from mandatory military service. Around 350 men falling into that category underwent physical examination and around 100 of them are presently serving on active duty. And there are 140 career soldiers whose spouses come from abroad.