Former South Korean Party Leader Suggests Military Service Requirement for Women in Public Service Roles

SEOUL — In a move that has sparked widespread discussion, the former leader of South Korea’s ruling party, Lee Jun-seok, proposed on Monday that women should complete mandatory military service if they wish to apply for positions as police officers or firefighters. Lee, who now heads the Reformative Conservative Party, introduced this idea as part of his campaign for the upcoming general elections in April, targeting to address both gender equity in public service and the projected decrease in military manpower due to the country's declining birth rate.

According to Yonhap News Agency, the proposal aims to make military service mandatory for all individuals aspiring to become public servants in the police, maritime police, firefighting, and correctional services, regardless of gender. He acknowledged that there would be exceptions for those unable to serve. This policy suggestion comes amidst concerns over South Korea's shrinking military personnel numbers, prompting the defense ministry to relax mandatory service requirements to include individuals previously considered ineligible, such as overweight men and potentially transgender women who have not undergone hormone therapy for more than six months. Lee's proposal is estimated to increase military manpower by 10,000 to 20,000 annually and is being considered for gradual expansion to other sectors. In South Korea, military service is currently compulsory for all able-bodied men, while women have the option to volunteer for military roles.

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