When the South Korean Army announces its biannual boot camp for civilians above the age of 13, there are lots of people who are more than happy to attend. Held at the command base in western Seoul, the 4 to 14 day camp offers basic military training to anyone able to pay the entry fee of 40,000 won (that’s about $36). Teenage boys and young women are seen attending the camp, sometimes along with their families. This doesn’t exactly come as a surprise, given that military culture is quite deeply ingrained in South Korea, a country ruled by army-backed regimes till the mid 1980s.
Apart from the ones run by the army, there are privately-run boot camps as well, which have become quite popular in recent times. People from various walks of life, ranging from school kids to nostalgic war veterans, company employees to families on vacation attend this kind of events. The army says the boot camp is an opportunity to test your limits, enhance your physical ability and learn to adopt the strong spirit of ‘making the impossible, possible.’ Major Lee Joo-Ho, a boot camp spokesperson says: “Boys obviously make up the biggest part because they have the mandatory service coming up.” What he’s referring to is the two years of mandatory conscription that all able-bodied South Korean men have to attend, in order to train themselves in case of an attack from North Korea. “But more young women are showing an interest, since they were allowed to join a college-based officer commissioning program last year.”