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Army academy mulls lifting ban on marriage, alcohol, smoking

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Published : 2014-03-09 20:19
Updated : 2014-03-09 20:19

The Korea Military Academy is considering relaxing its “three-nos” policy banning marriage, alcohol and smoking in light of changing social trends and concerns that it could restrict cadets’ human rights, officials said Sunday.

But critics said the move to weaken the 6-decade-old policy could loosen school discipline as public distrust lingers in the wake of some cadets’ misdeeds last year, including sexual assault.

“In consideration of legal standards, social trends and the educational purposes of the school, we are considering adopting the ‘space separation’ concept in applying the three-nos policy,” a senior KMA official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

He was referring to the concept under which the controversial policy is only applied when cadets are on campus, wearing school uniforms and involved in official school activities.

After soliciting public opinion from cadets, their parents and retired soldiers during a public hearing Wednesday, the KMA plans to finalize their plan to revise the policy regulations.
Army cadets salute during their commencement ceremony at the Korea Military Academy in northern Seoul on Feb. 27. (Yonhap)

After the changes are finalized, all cadets would be able to get engaged with approval from the school. They can also have sexual relationships as long as there are no “legal or moral” problems, officials said.

Cadets will also be allowed to smoke and drink at private events outside the campus if they do not wear uniforms.

Under the current regulations, cadets are banned from having sex and smoking under any circumstances. Drinking is also prohibited, but allowed on campus only with the permission from the KMA principal.

The KMA is also considering allowing cadets to date people from off-campus, but continuing to ban dating other cadets in the same class or under the same line of command.

Last year, the KMA set up a task force to enhance its regulations and culture amid criticism for the rigidity of what some call “anachronistic” regulations and rising concerns over several cases of sexual misconduct involving some cadets.

“Korea is the only country in the world that has such regulations banning the three. Thailand has one, but it bans lying and stealing,” an Army official said, declining to be named.

“As cadets live under overly stringent regulations, some were apparently violating the regulations clandestinely and feeling deep pangs of conscience. This is the reality of the three-nos policy.”

The KMA was at the center of public criticism last year when a senior cadet was found to have sexually assaulted a junior cadet in May. Two months later, a senior cadet was caught illegally having sex with a schoolgirl. In August, nine cadets were found to have drunk alcohol and visited a massage parlor when they were in Thailand for a volunteer event.

The incidents led the KMA to reshape its regulations and culture in the direction of granting greater autonomy to individual cadets.

Last year alone, 45 cadets decided to leave the school, compared with seven in 2010, one in 2011 and 10 in 2012.

By Song Sang-ho (sshluck@heraldcorp.com)

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