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[Newsmaker] Police to remove gendered requirement for physical test

All candidates will be required to pass the same exam regardless of gender starting 2026

Auxiliary police officer applicants take physical tests in Gyeonggi Province on June 10. (Yonhap)
Auxiliary police officer applicants take physical tests in Gyeonggi Province on June 10. (Yonhap)
Starting in 2026, all police hopefuls will have to take the same physical test regardless of gender.

The National Police Committee on Monday passed a plan to introduce a physical examination that requires the same standard for both men and women, the National Police Agency said.

The new physical exam is a timed event involving five stations -- running an obstacle course, skipping hurdles, pushing and pulling a 32-kilogram object, carrying a 72-kilogram human-like doll for 10 meters and pulling the triggers of a pistol and stun gun with both hands.

Throughout the entire test, applicants are required to wear a 4.2-kilogram vest resembling the weight of on-site equipment carried by police officers.

The physical exam will be pass or fail, so candidates regardless of their gender must complete all five stations in five minutes and ten seconds to pass the test. But, an official from the National Police Agency said the time requirement has not been set in stone yet and it will have to go under further review.

“The new circuit style physical test fits our job requirements better than the present format,” the official said. “But since it will be the first time to implement such an exam, it will take time to set up the necessary infrastructure.”

The current physical exam for police officer candidates is conducted by separately scoring each of the five categories -- push-ups, sit-ups, grip strength, 100-meter dash and 1000-meter running -- with different grading standards for men and women. For instance, a male applicant has to run a 100-meter dash in 13.0 seconds to receive a perfect score of 10, whereas a female applicant has to finish in 15.5 seconds for the highest grade.

The uniform physical test will first be implemented for Korean National Police University applicants in 2023 before being extended to all police recruitments.

In 2017, the Police Reform Committee, which is made up of human rights experts outside of the police force, recommended developing a unified physical standard to get rid of gender discrimination in the hiring process.

“Because the new test looks like it will actually measure the abilities to carry out our daily on-site work, I think it is an opportunity to select qualified candidates without having to consider gender quotas,” a male policer officer stationed in western Gyeonggi Province told The Korea Herald. “Some of my female colleagues are saying that this could set them free from gender discrimination.”

In 2019, a video of a policewoman handling citizen violence sparked a public dispute. The video showed the female officer confronting drunk men on the streets of Yeongdeungpo-gu in western Seoul.

In the video, the officer is seen getting pushed and hit as she tries to help her colleague. Many online comments criticized the female officer’s helplessness in the situation, calling her actions “passive” and saying that she was incompetent for the job.


By Kan Hyeong-woo (hwkan@heraldcorp.com)
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