- Genre and Sub Genre – Customary folklore (rites of passage)
- Language – English (ETS – extermination term of service)
- Country where Item is from – South Korea
Daniel Kang is a 24 year old male, and senior at Dartmouth College. He is currently a math and computer science double major. He is a class of 2015 but he enlisted in the South Korean military in 2012 after finishing a year at Dartmouth. He served from July 23, 2012 to April 22 2014 under the Republic of Korea (ROK) Army Avaition School. He worked as a human resources admin. He came back to Dartmouth to resume his studies in 2014.
- Social Context – The interview took place one-on-one in the informant’s apartment living room. The event described in the interview involved 40 other members of his platoon (only the soldiers, no officers). The informant could not come up with the exact date but it was in the bathroom area of his unit at night around April 1st of 2014.
- Cultural Context – The extermination term of service (ETS) has a very special meaning in South Korea military. Because the system runs on mandatory conscription, almost no one wants to serve and from day one of the service soldiers start counting the days they have left until ETS. There’s even a saying in South Korean military lore that is a variation of the more publicly well known saying “unification is our dream”: “ETS is our dream”. Therefore, ETS is regarded as a very special occasion as the end of military service and almost a new beginning in a South Korean male’s life.
- The beating always takes place the night before ETS. After roll calls (930 pm) and before bed time (10pm), the beating takes place in a designated area. For the informant’s unit, it was the bathroom area just outside of the barracks. This particular person, who was the informant’s friend (meaning same month hierarchy), knew what was coming and hid in the telephone booth. But the 40-or-so platoon memebers found him and dragged him to the bathroom area, wrapped him up in blankets (to prevent external injuries), and started giving him a hearty beating.
Associated file (a video, audio, or image file):
Transcript of Associated File:
So on the night of April 1st, this event happened? Please describe.
… It usually happens right after roll call  and like before every has to go to bed. So what usually happens is that the person who is like getting discharged the day after is basically beaten up. So they know it’s gonna happen so they usually run away. So this person, in particular, was hiding in a telephone booth, so we tracked him down and basically.. dragged him back to the base, like around the bathroom area. What we do is.. we are aware this could hurt him and also… but it’s like a thing we do so we usually roll him up in blankets and basically hit him, kick him, sit on him (laugh).
According to the informant, the degree of violence usually depends on how mean the senior was to the juniors. The juniors ranks get the one and only chance to get back at the senior soldier and make amends.
The informant thought this was a brutal and uncivilized way to end one’s service. He revealed that for his own ETS he did not let other soldiers do this ritual to him.
It is very interesting to see this rite of passage in a particular version performed at the informant’s unit. The collector has seen and heard it in many different forms, but a detailed account of this ritual in another unit that has lived on for a long time is definitely worth observing. It is also interesting to note that the informant simply chose to reject the ritual by his own will.
Jeong Tae Bang