It’s mandatory for a guy from South Korea to join military for designated years. Most young men go to army when they become 20, just finishing fresh year of university. But graduates with specific majors – medical, dentist, veterinary and law school students – go serve as an Officer in army with their license and experience acknowledged.
I was in the military camp for 4 weeks and in Korean Military Medical Academy for 2 weeks from March to April 2020, when corona-19 was then declared as pandemic and were growing fast globally. The first 4 weeks in the camp, we were under Basic Combat Training. The days flew very slowly as we were not allowed to use our phones and thus we were isolated from the mainstream society. We even didn’t know how the corona19 was spreading worldwide, and how the number of people under quarantine was getting larger.
Four weeks of Basic Combat Training ranged from physical drills – marching, guerrilla warfare, gun firings, battle combat and NBC (Nuclear, Biological Chemical) attack – to army lessons like how to command squads and to keep military security properly. It was funny that we were, as doctors, able to treat a comrade immediately if he gets hurt. I was also lucky to be in the same room with Korean Medical Doctors that I could get acupuncture treated anytime.
Two weeks in Korean Military Medical Academy was focused on training as an medical officer. We learned about infectious diseases, sanitary issues, and how to treat massive casualties. As a vet, our role were mostly related to food safety and treating war dogs. It was also when each person’s sites for 3-year service were appointed. Among 7 commissioned vets in Air Force, I was designated to go Korean Air Force Aerospace Medical Center in Cheung-ju.
The last day finally came, and we were really excited to go out and feel the air of free society. However, it didn’t go out well. Our ceremony started with no crowd, as it was in the peak of corona19 pandemic. It was just live-streamed through youtube. And as soon as the ceremony was over, buses came from each army unit to bring us back to theirs. That’s how my first day as a First Lieutenant of Korean Air Force started.
When I was re-connected with my phone, I devoured the news from past few weeks while I was in the military camp and realized Korea has been dealing with corona19 very well. Actually Korea was now acknowledged as the world’s most prominent country where we diagnosed fast and stopped infection quickly. Now we are even exporting prestigious diagnosing kits to USA and developing vaccines & cures actively. It is still on-going crisis worldwide, but I wish that Korea will catch the great opportunity in post-corona era.
Now my 3 years of military service has started, and I hope I can achieve something great with my time spent here. Wish best luck to myself.