Defector becomes first North Korean to join ROTC

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Defector becomes first North Korean to join ROTC

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Applicants for the ROTC of Sookmyung Women’s University take a qualifying physical fitness examination. A total of 280 women joined the ROTC this year. [JOONGANG PHOTO]

North Korean defector Lee Soo-yeon, a pseudonym, was selected as a cadet for the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) of Ewha Womans University, a university official said last Sunday. This is the first time a North Korean defector has joined the ROTC.

“The university was surprised to find out that a North Korean defector applied to the program,” said the official, “but we take pride in recruiting her. We look forward to her contribution to the ROTC.”

According to the school, Lee defected in 2006 on her third attempt to do so, from a border area of North Hamgyong Province. Lee’s experiences, from severe living conditions of the North and the changes she saw after moving to the South, led to her decision to join the ROTC.

“I want to become living proof that one can overcome prejudice against North Korean defectors,” Lee wrote as her reason for application. “I want to convey a message of hope to defectors, who lead unstable lives in the South, that we can do it. I want to continue taking on challenges that break the prejudice against defectors.”

But Lee did not wish to be made publicly known. The university official explained, “Lee didn’t want the media spotlight and wanted to be treated just like any cadet of the ROTC.”

The Ministry of National Defense started recruiting female cadets of the ROTC in 2010, making this the 7th year of them doing so. A total of 60 female cadets were recruited in 2010 from seven universities, including Sookmyung Women’s University, and that number increased to 250 in 2011. The general competition rate for recruitment is 5:1.

A total of 280 females joined the ROTC this year, 90 of whom belong to Ewha Womans University, Sookmyung Women’s University and Sungshin Women’s University.

The selection process includes a written exam, a physical fitness test and an interview. The only difference with the selection process for male candidates is the physical strength requirement.


BY CHUN SU-JIN AND PARK SEONG-HUN [kim.yuna1@joongang.co.kr]

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