Students to join defense academy

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Students to join defense academy

Twenty college students were selected last week to join Korea’s own version of the Talpiot program, an elite military science academy started by the Israeli Defense Forces.

Talpiot means “best of the best” in Hebrew, and the Korean government and military hope the domestic take on the program will help the selected college sophomores become leaders in defense technology.

At the Israel academy, many of graduates go on to found start-ups such as Fraud Sciences, which was later acquired by eBay. The Korean government wants to follow in that institution’s footsteps and hopes the intensive program will produce scientists and engineers who can advance military technology during their service after college then go on to start their own businesses.

The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning and the Ministry of National Defense announced on Tuesday that it had picked its final 20 candidates from sophomore science and engineering majors at the nation’s top engineering colleges. Ten students are from Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (Kaist), five are from Pohang University of Science and Technology, four are from Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology and one is from Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology.

“We are confident the finalists will contribute in a big way to developing Korean defense technology and later founding great start-ups based on their passion, capabilities and the leadership they will learn at the military science academy,” a member of the selection committee said in a statement released on Tuesday.

The 20 were chosen from 109 applicants and will complete their college degrees including defense courses by early 2017 and become commissioned officers the following summer.

Now, they must complete their undergraduate program, their chosen major, and additional defense science courses. On school breaks, they will intern at the Korean Agency for Defense Development (ADD).

After finishing their undergraduate degrees, the students will be automatically commissioned as second lieutenants and will work at the ADD on defense technology projects ranging from chemical weapons to software systems.

The lieutenants must serve at least three years in the military.

The Science and Defense ministries has said it will add at least 20 sophomores to the program annually.

One of the goals of the elite military science training program is to prevent male engineering students from stopping their academic career during their two years of mandatory military service.

In the original Israeli Talpiot program, started in 1979, has been helped along because successful graduates often help recent Talpiot graduates fund their start-ups.

The Israeli program recruits high school students who then attend Hebrew University and major in defense technology, then complete six years of mandatory military service as research and development officers.

BY KIM JI-YOON [jiyoon.kim@joongang.co.kr]

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