Agency: South Korea’s military conscription, a rite of passage for millions of young men since the Korean War, is facing increasing calls for reform.
While South Korea is still technically at war with North Korea, its draft has become less popular across the country. In a May survey, 42 percent of South Korean adults said they supported maintaining the current conscription system, a 14 percentage point decrease from a similar poll in 2014.
Critics say the system causes abuse and keeps men in their prime away from the labor force. Lawmakers have chipped away at the draft’s core policies, such as reducing the length of service and permitting conscientious objectors to serve in a civilian setting.
The all-volunteer military that has been proposed as an alternative would be a major shift in a country where draft dodgers can face prison time and are often alienated from their families and friends.
Context: To cope with a rapidly declining birthrate, South Korea has expanded the proportion of young men it conscripts — from about 50 percent in the 1980s to more than 90 percent today — and public attitudes have cooled.
Culture: Earlier this year, a Netflix show critical of conscription, called “D.P.” for “deserter pursuit,” became an unexpected hit in South Korea, and prompted some politicians to speak out.