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Army to appoint first mixed-race officers

The South Korean Army said Monday that two of its cadets with multicultural backgrounds are soon to become non-commissioned officers, the first such cases since the Army’s foundation.

Cadet officers Bae Jun-hyeong, 22, and Han Ki-yeop, 21, will undergo a 12-week training course next month before being appointed as NCOs, Army officials said.
Cadet officers Bae Jun-hyeong (right) and Han Ki-yeop (Yonhap News)
Cadet officers Bae Jun-hyeong (right) and Han Ki-yeop (Yonhap News)

The two cadets said that they will work hard to become respected members of the military and set a good example for the other soldiers.

Both are from multicultural families: Bae’s mother is of Vietnamese origin and Han’s mother is from Japan. This is the first time for anyone from such households to join the ranks of non-commissioned officers in the South Korean military, officials said.

There are currently 179 soldiers from multicultural backgrounds serving in the Army, while there are nine in the Navy and five in the Air Force, according to Army officials.

The figure has been on the rise since new regulations in 2009 called for the amendment of a previous military service law that banned those who clearly appear to have a mixed-race background from performing mandatory military service.

The number of multicultural soldiers will likely surge in the coming years with some 4,200 males slated to undergo physical examinations and fitness tests for conscription from 2013 to 2015, according to statistics.

Army officials said they are currently looking to improve current measures and conditions regarding mixed-race soldiers so as to help them fit in more easily.

Two years of military service is mandatory for all healthy South Korean men, as the Korean Peninsula remains technically at war ever since the 1950-53 Korean war ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. (Yonhap News)
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