The thing about Boot Camp Pt.3: The RoKA service creed

Like any other service branches, the Republic of Korea Army (RoKA) too, has a creed.

One of the unique things about the Korean Army is that it still holds the tradition of holding morning and evening rolls every bloody day. During summer, all men must be up by 0600 hours, and we must be at the roll area or the training grounds by 0615 hours. During the roll, we report the personnel details, do our daily stretches and of sorts. Although the details change at times, there are two things that we must always do during the roll. One is singing along the national anthem, and another is reciting the service creed.

Honestly, it is stupid.
It asks for a WW1 kind of attitude in the 21st century, and represents how far behind the Korean uniformed services truly are. Here goes:

복무신조
Service Creed

(우리의 결의)
(Our conviction)

우리는 국가와 국민에 충성을 다하는 대한문국 육군이다.
We are the Republic of Korea Army, who serve the nation and its people with utmost loyalty.

하나, 우리는 자유민주주의를 수호하며 조국통일의 역군이 된다.
First, we protect freedom and democracy, and shall be the pillar of motherland’s unification.

둘, 우리는 실전과 같은 훈련으로 지상전의 승리자가 된다.
Second, by training as though we fight, we shall become victors of land warfare.

셋, 우리는 법규를 준수하고 상관의 명령에 복종한다.
Third, we obey the law and abide to our superior’s commands.

넷, 우리는 명예와 신의를 지키며 전우애로 굳게 단결한다.
Fourth, we keep our honor and trust, and unite firmly as brothers in arms.

When combined with the Korean Army’s values, teachings, and tactics, this creed basically means this: “we are soldiers who will die in the field of battle as my superiors command”.

It is an obvious thinking that in the 21st century, the right attitude one should have upon entering battle is to stay alive while hitting the enemy and stand victorious. In that sense, the Korean Army’s creed and tactical thinking is rather outdated, almost archaic. The why to this matter is rather complicated. The last two years of the Korean war was a very bloody trench warfare. Korea is full of hills and mountains. Proper usage of artillery and armor must be accompanied by good scouting and spotting from said hills and mountains. Hence, A small hill would be often held and defended by a company or two, and an attempt at claiming such position would take at least a battalion to accomplish. Once the side holding the position gets pinned/surrounded, they are f*cked. A company without proper supply chain cannot last long on their own. Each rifleman would be given 140 or 210 rounds (total 7 magazines, 20 or 30 per mag) and four hand grenades, and they may have had a supply truck behind them that could resupply the company once or twice. Nonetheless, if a Battalion can keep up an assault with reasonable artillery/air support for a good day or two, they would all be none but wiped out. Even the attacking side would take heavy casualties, though: the reason why a company is left to guard the hill is because the remainder of the battalion had been wiped out in the previous assault.

In this kind of dynamic, infantry has become nothing more than bullet fodders to take point before the armor and artillery can move up. Hence, the Korean military has focused heavily on a soldier’s obedience to do advance and hold position as commanded, rather than making each soldier a worthwhile warrior. The US army treats the matter quite differently: they make each soldier a professional in what they do in order to maximize their combat capability. US army, too, recognizes that artillery and airstrikes are more effective at taking out targets and decommissioning a position. However, they also make use of the boots on the ground to their best. There is a reason why you have people down there, and sending them just to become bee hives (in the Korean Army, people who die on the field from numerous bullet wounds bee hives) is never an acceptable reason.

Realistically, the Korean military today unfortunately cannot give that much attention because the service term is 21 months, and they cannot afford high tech individualized equipment in individual soldier level. Infantry modernization pretty much comes down to individualized coms and more reliable equipment to maximize individual combat capability. However, one could easily argue that the mandatory service does not end with the 21 months in active duty, since they are re-stationed into reserve duty for another several years after the initial 21 months. Hence, it is hard to say that our infantry is ‘one-off’. However, our army seems to think these three million men from active and reserve combined are bullet fodders for their precious armored/mechanized/artillery divisions. A single change of attitude and proper training that goes along with the change could solve all of our problems, but the military continues to deny this harsh fact, mostly because attention in soldier level means less room for corruption and mistreatment, a practice yet far too common in the Korean defense program.

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