The Korea Herald


Women to serve on Korean submarines from 2024

By Ji Da-gyum

Published : June 26, 2023 - 15:08

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South Korea’s first indigenous-built 3000-ton Dosan Ahn Chang-ho submarine. (Republic of Korea Navy) South Korea’s first indigenous-built 3000-ton Dosan Ahn Chang-ho submarine. (Republic of Korea Navy)

South Korea's Navy will deploy women officers aboard 3,000-ton submarines for the first time starting next year, breaking the longstanding glass ceiling within the country's military after 31 years since the Navy commissioned its first-ever Jang Bogo submarine in 1993.

Seven non-commissioned female officers were selected earlier this month out of a pool of 22 applicants to serve on submarines, the Navy announced Monday.

The Navy had initially planned to select four non-commissioned female officers as submarine crew members. But, due to the significant number of applicants, the Navy decided to increase the number of selections.

Last month, the Navy also chose two commissioned female officers for submarine missions from three candidates. The officers are both graduates of the Naval Academy and currently hold the rank of captain. Notably, one of the officers underwent midshipman training at the United States Naval Academy after being selected for a commissioned education course.

The selected nine female naval officers will undergo training at the 909th Training and Education Squadron under the South Korean Navy's Submarine Force Command until early next year. Upon successfully completing training and the necessary qualifications, they will officially begin their roles as submarine crew members starting next year.

The South Korean Navy initiated a review process in 2014 to consider the inclusion of female naval officers in submarine missions.

However, the working conditions inside the submarines deployed at that time posed challenges and were not suitable for accommodating female officers. Even male sailors faced various inconveniences as a result of the compact size and limited internal space of the 1200-ton and 1800-ton submarines that were deployed at the time.

The Navy subsequently had a shift in policy and decided to integrate female sailors on submarines in July 2022. This decision was mainly prompted by the commissioning of the Dosan Ahn Chang-ho, a 3000-ton homegrown submarine, in August 2021.

The new 3,000-ton submarines have been specifically designed with segregated living quarters to accommodate female officers, ensuring their inclusion and providing suitable living conditions on board.

The selected female naval officers will serve on two 3,000-ton submarines, the Dosan An Chang-ho and An Mu.

In a statement issued in July 2022, the Navy said that the decision to allow women to serve on submarines was driven by the need to address manpower shortages resulting from reduced military resources.

The integration also aims to provide equal opportunities to capable women soldiers. The Navy's permission grants South Korean female military officers the opportunity to serve in all combat capacities, with the exception of some specific special operations missions.

South Korea has become the 14th country in the world to permit women to serve on submarines. The other 13 countries include Argentina, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the United States and the United Kingdom.