New female reservists do their partForty women dressed in military uniforms filled the local city hall auditorium on March 27 in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi. But seeing their salute, it was obvious they had no prior military experience.
Still, the women are members of a new female reserve force established that day by the regional government.
“I want to make a contribution to national security myself because I only have two daughters,” said Park Yong-ok, 60, the oldest member on the force.
As the number of women wishing to support national security has grown in Korea, local government officials have begun to establish female reserve forces in Seoul and the surrounding areas, said to Kim Bong-yeol, an official with the Ministry of National Defense. In Gwacheon, for instance, the 40 women in the new female reserve force were chosen from among 60 applicants.
Last year, three female reserve platoons were launched in Jung and Nam Districts, in Incheon, and Ansan. Chinese and Filipino women have also joined the ranks in Ansan, where many multicultural families are based.
In Seoul, all districts operate female reserve forces with the exception of Songpa District.
“Each regional government has established female reserve forces because there are a number of women who want to serve national security, even though they have no military experience,” Kim said.
Female reserve forces began in 1989, on Baengnyeong Island, Incheon. The force was established for rear support with the island so close to North Korean territory.
The women support the regular reserve force in military exercises and provide food and medical supplies in emergencies. Relief and other volunteer missions are also included in their duties.
The female reservists in Suwon, Gyeonggi, patrol residential areas from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. each day and escort civilian women returning home alone at night. Many also volunteer to serve as mother figures to male soldiers who come from single-parent households and may not have the opportunity to see their family often.
Currently 6,377 female reservists are serving nationwide, and 2,407 of them are in the Seoul metropolitan area. For two years, the reservists are required to complete six hours of training per year.
“Being surprised by the sound of guns, many members, including me, gave up shooting in the first training,” 54-year-old reservist Jeong Jeong-sun said. “Now I can handle guerrilla training - walking on a tightrope 5 meters high and shooting.”
BY LIM MYOUNG-SOO AND JEON ICK-JIN [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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