Scarce cop jobs spur some to turn to dopingCutthroat competition and demanding physical requirements to become a police officer have flooded cram schools with applicants preparing for recruitment exams, with some even resorting to performance-enhancing drugs to get on the force.
With youth unemployment at an all-time high, police departments nationwide have found themselves swamped with applicants desperate to land a position.
This year, over 39,326 people applied to fill 1,299 male police officer positions, a competition rate of 30 to 1. The struggle was even fiercer among women, with 13,594 applicants vying for 230 positions - a 59 to 1 rate. In the southwestern city of Gwangju, the competition rate for female police officers was 116 to 1.
Candidates must take a written exam - the result will constitute 50 percent of their total score - followed by a physical aptitude test (25 percent) and an interview (25 percent). The physical exam is known to be the most demanding.
Applicants are assessed on a scale of ten on each of five tests: 100-meter and 1,000-meter dashes, push-ups, sit-ups and gripping strength. Receiving a score of one on any of these tests results in automatic disqualification.
Many candidates believe the physical portion is their chief opportunity to distinguish themselves from their competitors.
This is why cram schools that help train candidates for the physical tests are most popular. At these academies, candidates undergo a hellish form of training, often suffering from ligament injuries in the process. Some rely on Ringer’s solution, an intravenously administered dose of salts, to withstand the sheer physical toll.
Some of the cram schools promise “special instruction” to give candidates an edge - some of which are dodgy or illegal. Such special instructions range from simple physical techniques to raise one’s score to ways to cheat on the written exam. The police are aware of these practices and are stepping up their vigilance. Some regional departments run preliminary exercises designed to weed out malpractices.
The testing ground on the day of the physical exam is reminiscent of a championship sporting event. Families, friends and significant others - as well as cram school instructors advertising their own effectiveness - stand in a crowd, cheering for their respective applicants.
The anxiety is rife and moments of friction occur as candidates protest the fairness of their rivals’ assessments. At the end of the day when all assessments have been completed, some applicants are selected to undertake doping exams by handing in a sample of their urine, which is tested for performance-enhancing chemicals.
The National Police Agency of Korea started doping tests in the recruitment process in 2015.
In March, a 26-year-old applicant’s urine sample was found to have contained methylhexanamine, a chemical stimulant used by athletes to enhance physical performance that is banned by most professional sports. It was the first time such a discovery had been made.
One senior police officer who asked to remain anonymous commented, “Many candidates have been pushed to resort to these drugs due to the employment crisis despite knowing that being caught with an illegal chemical in your system results in disqualification from applying to civil service positions for the next five years.”
The sheer number of applications makes it impossible for the police department to conduct doping tests on every candidate. Only around five to ten percent are randomly picked for testing, with the case in March being that two were chosen from 32 applicants in Gwangju. It is likely that many more cases of performance-enhancing drug use exist but escape detection.
BY KIM HO, SHIM KYU-SEOK [email@example.com]