The Next Step to Accomplishing His Dreams for the National Defense Development
Bae Jae-kyung, HYU's first military officer-to-be at ADD
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In South Korea, mandatory military service takes around two years, which may differ depending on the type or army one is in. The current government had promised to shorten the length of service to solve some of the societal clashes that were aroused, but the obligation still puts a lot of pressure on many students, as age and timing is one of the most crucial factors that affect one’s career in Korea. Some students, however, have taken this opportunity and turned it into a career as a military officer. Luckily, Korea does have several programs that support this career path, and one of them is the “Professional Officers in S&T for the National Defense Program.” Despite its tough admissions process, Bae Jae-kyung (Division of Mechanical Engineering, 2nd year) was selected for the program for the first time in Hanyang's history.
The Professional Officers in S&T for the National Defense program is executed by the Ministry of Science and ICT and the Ministry of National Defense. It benchmarks Israel’s elite program called the Talpiot program, which trains recruits who have demonstrated an outstanding academic ability in the sciences as well as in their leadership potential with the goal of developing new technologies for the army. The Talpiot program was inaugurated in 1979 after Israel’s loss in the Yom Kippur War. A similar program was established in Korea with the goal of fostering young talent by turning them into a professional in their field and prevent a severely disadvantaged career due to mandatory military service.
Bae’s interest and application for this program was not just out of a whim. His passion for military technology in defense and security stems from his childhood and his father’s teachings. Bae’s father was also an officer and had taught Bae all about patriotism, loyalty, and sacrifice. “My father always taught me that one’s leadership and ability alone can contribute to defending the country. This has always inspired me. After searching for ways to become an officer like my father, I came across this program and decided that it really befitted my interests and passion.”
The selection process is divided into three rounds. The first round is the document evaluation, consisting of a GPA and personal statement screening. Candidates need at least a 4.0 GPA, as the most who pass have that equivalent score or higher. As for personal statements, it is better to base it on honesty and a field that truly interests you. The second round consists of interviews. After you pass the first round, you go on to a physical examination and personality test. Only after you pass these two can you then move on to the actual interview and the evaluation of duty execution. The interviews are based on the depth of your knowledge from your major and your personal statement. That is why everybody has different interview questions. 60 to 70 percent of the questions are based on the depth of your knowledge from your major, while the remaining 30 to 40 percent are based on your personal statement. There were five interviewers, and the interviews take place in three different locations of approximately 30 minutes. The duty execution evaluation also takes place in a different location and can take a short time, up to 40 minutes depending on the person. The third round is the final evaluation, and after you pass this round, you are admitted to the program.
Once admitted to the program, trainees can then study and work at the Agency for Defense Development (ADD). Only sophomores can apply, as they are expected take courses at ADD every vacation until graduation. Then, they carry out joint research with the current researchers for three years upon graduation instead of going to the army for two years. During the three years, they are allowed to study for a master’s or doctor’s degree as well. The first batch was selected back in 2014, and 20 students from the science and tech-related institutions such as KAIST, POSTECH, UNIST, and GIST were selected. As time has passed, opportunity has spread, and now, 20 to 25 male and female students from all over the country from various fields such as electronics, machinery, aircraft technology, and computers are also selected after a tough selection process.
According to Bae, candidates with an electronics major were selected the most in previous batches. However, as things have been changing along with the program’s progress, about eight mechanics, four computer majors, and one to two from other fields were selected for this batch. “I am very interested in stealth technology. Korea is currently working with the U.S. on developing this technology, but it is still at an elementary level, so I want to join in this research and contribute. I wouldn’t have been accepted without the help of the HYU dean, the College of Engineering's Administration Office staff, and my major professors. It took me a long time to prepare for this program, but it’s all worth it. I hope I can one day help pave a path for our HYU hubaes who are interested.”
Park Joo-hyun firstname.lastname@example.org Photos by Lee Jin-myung