When every semester starts, we wonder who our classmates will be. While some may pursue taking classes with friends, others may enjoy making new friends. For international students, the desire of making valuable and long lasting relationships in South Korea may be somewhat highly valued.
We all have seen the students dressed in blue, carrying a briefcase, and always wearing a blue beret. Questions arise. Is this a new K-pop fashion? Is he a fashionista, incorporating the beauty of a beret with a classical suit? With numerous unanswered questions, after the class is over, one enters a new class. While looking around the class, one is once again shocked. There happens to be another student with the same style.
Those individuals dressed in blue are members of Hanyang University Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). South Korea is known for having a draft system where every male is required to serve the nation, unless exempted due to physical or mental illness. ROTC members are those who have decided to serve as officers rather than as a soldier. Reasons for applying may differ: willingness to enhance leadership, to receive a scholarship as a student, to help other soldiers in the military, or to fulfill a family tradition of serving as officers.
Regardless of the reason, every member decided to become an officer and serve the nation as a military leader. This week, Internet Hanyang News (IHN) decided to conduct an in-depth introduction of Hanyang University (HYU) ROTC.
HYU ROTC was established at June 1, 1961. On March 15, 1980, ERICA campus ROTC was divided from the Seoul campus ROTC. Ever since its establishment, HYU ROTC has received numerous awards throughout the years. In 2001, it was selected as the outstanding ROTC in educational performance. In both 2002 and 2006, it was selected as the best ROTC throughout the nation. ERICA campus ROTC has also received many awards. In 2006, it was announced as the outstanding ROTC for individual weaponry. In 2009, it had the 5th most commissioned officers throughout the entire ROTC.
The main emblem is formed with four meanings. The outer layer which is shaped like a shield implies the belief and value of protecting the nation. The white border depicts the so called ‘white-clad folk’ of Korea who is known for pursuing peace. The blue background stands for the university students with youth and justice. The diamond placed in the upper-middle part of the symbol is signifies officer candidates.
Another important symbol of ROTCs is the amethyst ring which is provided when commissioned. The ring is well known throughout South Korean society, and is worn by ROTC members even after their service. It not only shows ones pride but it is also used to distinguish fellow ROTC members.
Not all applicants are accepted as a member of ROTC. Applicants are required to pass a three step screening process; a written exam, an interview accompanied with a health examination, and a background check.
After being accepted, members have to participate in both physical activities and attend military education throughout their semester. During vacations, members are required to take actual military training.
After being commissioned as an officer, members are placed in military bases and have to serve for two and a half years. If an individual is willing to pursue a career as an officer after successfully serving his or her required period of time, doors are open for them to do so.
Serving one’s country is one of the greatest honors as a citizen. However, methods of serving the nation differ. While most South Korean male are applying to become soldiers due to its relatively short period of time, currently 21 months, there are others who wish to serve as officers. In a way, dressing up in suits and wearing berets every day to school and receiving military training every vacation is not an easy task. It requires much effort and self-discipline. So the next time you meet a ROTC member, let us not question who they are. They are those who will lead our soldiers in the near future to defend the country.