The runaway popularity of the "Descendants of the Sun" TV series has spurred a spike in the number of young men wanting to join South Korean special forces units, a military source said Sunday.
The series that ended in mid-April has been a phenomenal success in both South Korea and in places such as China. The TV show highlighted the exploits of South Korean special forces conducting humanitarian operations in a fictitious country and the romance that develops between the male and female characters. It has sparked another "hallyu" boom and has been sold to many countries in Asia, including Japan.
Hallyu, or the Korean Wave, refers to the popularity of TV shows and music that have secured hordes of fans in Asia, Europe and the American continent.
Of the four main characters, three are military personnel with one being a noncommissioned officer (NCO) in the country's special forces.
"The competition to become a special forces NCO stood at 5.5 to 1 in the last enrollment session," a military source said. He said around 1,500 young people showed up even though the Army was only picking 265 people.
He said the high number and the fierce competition is very unusual. In the recent past, the competition to get in stood at an average of 3.6 to 1.
Those who make the cut are interviewed, and required to undergo a rigorous 17 weeks of training that tests the limits of a person's physical and mental endurance. The training includes air drops, covert infiltration and extraction training, as well as a 50-kilometer hike with full military combat gear. The recruits are also subject to sleep deprivation during their maneuvers.
The military said that while the latest surge is probably due to the TV series, there has been a steady rise in people joining to
become NCOs over the year.
"Youngsters are joining up because they want their mandatory military service to be more meaningful than the life of a normal conscript," a local Army recruiter claimed. He said such a trend will help the force become more motivated and professional, enhancing its fighting ability.
In South Korea, all young men must serve in the country's military for around 2 years, but people can join special branches of its armed forces. A career NCO, like officers, are required to serve longer periods than those that have been called to duty. (Yonhap)