30 May 2016
Some 1,500 young people turned up for an army enrolment session in the hope of joining South Korea's special-forces units, possibly inspired by the hugely successful drama Descendants Of The Sun.
This was revealed by a military source who told Yonhap news agency that despite the great demand, the army had space for only 265 people to join its ranks.
"The competition to become a special-forces, non-commissioned officer stood at 5.5 to 1 in the last enrolment session," he was quoted as saying.
In recent years, the average demand was 3.6 people for every available position.
The heightened interest in the latest exercise was very unusual, he added.
The military said that the latest surge is probably due to the recently concluded TV series Descendants Of The Sun, which broke viewership records.
The show portrayed the exploits of South Korean special forces during a humanitarian mission in a fictitious country. A romance then blossomed between the lead actor's character and the actress', a doctor.
One of the main military characters in the drama is a non-commissioned officer.
However, the military noted that there has been a steady rise in people signing up to become non-commissioned officers over the year.
All young men are required to serve in South Korea's military for around two years.
A career non-commissioned officer, like regular officers, serves longer periods than those who have been called to duty.
Those who are selected to join have to go through an interview. They then embark on a rigorous training regimen that covers both physical and mental aspects lasting 17 weeks.
Some skills they learn are conducting air drops and covert infiltration, as well as a 50km hike in full military garb.
"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 was quoted by Yonhap news agency as saying.
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