For a soldier, being a housewife is the hard part“Being a housewife is more difficult than being a soldier,” says Kang Gyeong-hi, a sergeant in Korea’s Special Operations Forces and a wife and mother, who has been a member of this elite squad for 10 years.
In her daily training, Ms. Kang, 29, rappels to the ground from 11 meters (36 feet) up. Wearing a beret, and green and brown camouflage paint on her face, she looks sharp and professional. Ms. Kang leads an “anti-terrorism team,” the cream of the crop among the special operations teams, and has more than 1,120 parachute jumps under her belt.
Her training is intended to prepare her to fight terrorists, rescue people and demolish enemy facilities in times of war. Ms. Kang starts her day at 8 a.m. by running five kilometers (three miles), and marching for two hours. Physical exercise, martial arts and shooting practice continue until 5 or 6 p.m.
On the way home, however, her biggest concern is what to cook for her second child, who has just begun to eat solid food. That is when she changes from a soldier to a typical housewife. Ms. Kang says she would give herself 90 points out of 100 as a soldier, but only 70 as a mother.
Ms. Kang nurtured her dream to be a soldier from childhood, after watching soldiers marching down the street in “cool” uniforms, with a “charismatic” attitude. She graduated from high school in 1995 and attended a women’s army school before applying to the special forces. Parachuting into a forest and then finding her way back to base on time and marching 400 kilometers in a week were part of the survival training she went through to finally wear the black beret.
Being a soldier and a mother at the same time is quite challenging, she says.
“Three weeks after having my second child, I went on a march. Two days into training, my shoulders didn’t feel normal. I felt exhausted, unlike before I had my second baby,” Ms. Kang recalls. “I used to do more than 60 situps a minute, but I couldn’t even do six on that day,” she adds.
“It wasn’t too bad when I had my first child. But after the second child, the training was so difficult, I even considered retiring,” Ms. Kang says.
This was the “crisis” in her life as a soldier. After finishing her daily training in the evening, she would call home. One day, she called to discuss the retirement issue with her husband, Lee Sang-mok, 32, another member of the anti-terrorism squad. Instead, her first daughter, 6, answered the phone. After hearing her daughter saying, “I will take care of my sister. Don’t worry and finish your training safely,” Ms. Kang’s eyes were moist with tears.
“When my two daughters grow up, I don’t want to tell them that I gave up my dream because I am a woman, or a mother. I want to be a mother who continues doing what she chooses to do,” Ms. Kang says.
She finished the training and passed the physical exam.
“I feel grateful to my mother-in-law, who takes care of my children during the day,” Ms. Kang says. In the evening, she does household chores and plays with her children.
Ms. Kang says being both a soldier and housewife is only possible with a husband who understands and supports her all the time.
“My husband always does the cleaning. He says he may not be as good at jumping out of a helicopter, but he is a lot better than me when it comes to cleaning the house,” Ms. Kang says proudly.
For women who want to become soldiers, Ms. Kang has some advice. “Some people still think that women soldiers are ugly and rough. But as a soldier, you don’t have to give up being who you are,” she says.
“Also, some women are not so confident to compete with men physically. But don’t worry, those who get the highest marks in military academies are all women.”
by Shin Eun-jin, Choi Sun-young