Support for Conscripting Women Grows

      May 12, 2022 13:00

      Some 42 percent of women in their 20s support equal conscription instead of compelling only young men to shoulder the burden of defending the country.

      In a poll of 1,786 people over 16 by Kstat Research last month, 42.2 percent of supporters cited the need for women to be able to defend themselves in a war, and 25 percent said women should share duties equally with men. Next came because women are capable (14.9 percent), and because military service can be helpful in building a career (12.3 percent).

      Some young women say the experience can be put on a résumé. "I have a master's degree, but male graduates are being paid higher salaries than me at entry level because of their military service," a 26-year-old staffer with a midsize company said. "Whenever I see male managers build consensus better with my male coworkers, it occurs to me that military service isn't necessarily a waste of time."

      One 26-year-old office worker said, "In the past, I vaguely thought that women too could join the military whenever I heard my male coworkers talk about their military experience. But the war in Ukraine has made me think that women too should be given basic military training like rifle shooting and gas mask drills."

      The number of female soldiers stood at 13,449 in 2020 or a mere 2.4 percent of all 555,000 active-duty soldiers in the country. "Today's young women think they can do anything as well as men," said Kim Elly, a visiting professor at Sungkonghoe University. "They feel they too can join the military, not because they believe they should defend the country, but because they don't think of themselves as weak and want to be stronger."

      But there are many obstacles to conscripting women. It would cost a lot of money to convert training facilities and barracks so that both male and female soldiers can use them. The Constitutional Court pointed this out in 2010, when it ruled that the male-only draft is constitutional.

      There are also lots of worries about the male-centered culture and the danger of sex crimes in the military. In the poll, 24.6 percent of opponents of female conscription said women contribute to the country through childbirth and childrearing, and some 20.3 percent cited the risk of sexual harassment.

      Most victims of sexual assault in the military are female soldiers, according to a survey of 2,730 military officers across the country by the National Human Rights Commission last October. Some 32.1 percent of female soldiers experienced sexual harassment, compared to eight percent of male soldiers. And 42.9 percent of female soldiers fell victim to sexual assault, compared to 22.3 percent of male soldiers.

      A 26-year-old former Army officer said, "We need to increase gender-sensitivity awareness in the military before talking about female conscription."

      "I support conscripting women. But there's a need to create an environment where female soldiers do not need to worry about sexual assault," a 26-year-old former officer pointed out. "In a situation where even senior female officers fall victim to sex crimes, there'll be a lot of sexual harassment in barracks if women are drafted."

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