August 19, 2015 08:16
A growing number of young women are signing up for the military, which is still overwhelmingly a male bastion, and many of them are university-educated.
Women have been gradually raising the glass ceiling in business and the civil service, but an increasingly tough job market is driving more and more of them to turn to the military for experience and job security.
Competition is growing more intense. At some universities like Konyang and Dankook, women have formed clubs to help each other prepare for military service. Members train for the selection process starting with physical fitness.
They also prepare for officer exams. Others go to crammers that prepare candidates.
"We saw an increase in the number of female students last year, and now women account for half of all students in some classes," a crammer staffer said.
There has also been an increase in the number of women applying to military academies. At the Korea Military Academy, the competition rate for female applicants rose to 40.4:1 this year. At the Korea Naval Academy, the figure has risen to 59.9:1 and at the Korea Air Force Academy to 69.2:1.
A Defense Ministry official said, "We have been increasing the number of female soldiers as part of reforms and women now account for around six percent of all troops, up from four percent in 2010."
One reason may be a strategy to gain unique experience that looks good on women's resumes when they apply for jobs at major conglomerates. Conglomerates prefer staff who used to be officers in the military.
The appeal of professional soldiering also lies in job security and good pensions.
Sul Dong-hoon, a professor at Chonbuk National University, said, "Attitudes are changing, and the military is no longer seen as a blue-collar job."
But the Army is not for everyone. Oh Ho-young at the Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education said, "Women must realize that there are tough aspects of a military career when they have children. We need to make sure women are informed about the realities."
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