ROK Ministry of Defense promotes education among Soldiers, military families

ROK Ministry of Defense promotes education among Soldiers, military families

Felix Kim

The Republic of Korea (ROK) Ministry of National Defense (MND) is committed to nourishing the minds of Soldiers and military families through enhanced educational programs, scholarships and mentoring.

The MND has promoted reading among young South Koreans through its Jinjung Bookstore project since 1978. Perceiving a recent decline in participation — correlated by a rise in Soldiers’ use of cellphones — the ministry has modified the program to reignite interest and participation.

Soldiers, for example, post online book reviews in monthly competitions. As a sweetener, each Soldier who posts a review receives 50 coupons for coffee to distribute among their friends.

Retired ROK Army Lt. Gen. In-Bum Chun sees a dual benefit for Soldiers taking part in the program.

“Korea has a conscript Army, and Soldiers need to be provided with means to spend quality time,” he told FORUM. “Also, the competitive nature of Korean society deprives a young person the time to read. The Army gives them some time, especially during COVID.”

The ministry has increased the number of scholarships it gives children of Soldiers through its Dream Challenge Support program. The 2022 scholarship budget rose to U.S. $2.2 million, up from U.S. $1.85 million in 2021, according to ministry data. Private sector partners have increased their contributions to similar scholarship funds.

“Our military is spurring the creation of an environment where soldiers can concentrate on their service by expanding the welfare of military families and establishing a work-family balance support system,” the ministry stated.

A pair of civilian partners — the state-owned Educational Broadcasting System (EBS) and LG Uplus Corp., a mobile network operator — are working with the MND to provide online education to children in military families stationed along the demilitarized zone bordering North Korea and in other remote areas.

Using the education platform built by EBS, qualified college students serve as mentors to children with military parents, offering one-on-one tutoring and career counseling.

LG Uplus began working with preschool and elementary school students in 2021, providing 438 military children with educational smart pad devices and letting them use instructional content free for two years. It wants the program to reach 1,000 children in 2022.

Students in military families who worry about university entrance exams can receive help from a ministry program that helps young scholars gain acceptance at 133 universities. The ministry also plans small libraries in 62 apartment complexes that house military families.

The MND partners with private companies that provide entertainment and sports activity discounts for military families.

IMAGE CREDIT: ISTOCK

Felix Kim is a FORUM contributor reporting from Seoul, South Korea.

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