NONSAN, South Korea—Stuck at home and taking classes online, Kyle Choi, 20 years old, became resolute on where he’d ride out the pandemic: South Korea’s military.
Mr. Choi, a college student in Seoul, accelerated his plans to fulfill his mandatory service of 18 months. As an environmental engineering major, Mr. Choi worried virtual learning wasn’t replicating in-class experiments critical for his education. So, in late December, he voluntarily enlisted for boot camp at this central South Korean city.
“You have to go anyway,” he said. “Might as well go now.”
Around the world, militaries are seeing upticks in enlistments, as younger adults seek refuge from a pandemic that’s curbed job opportunities, social life and a traditional education. The role often brings healthcare perks such as free virus tests, treatment and vaccines. Social distancing has made some facets of early military life less strenuous.
Canada saw a 37% surge in military applicants for the final nine months of 2020 from a year earlier. For the full year, Australia reported a 9.9% rise over the prior year. The U.K. last spring hit its annual recruitment target for the first time in seven years—and is on pace to do so again this year, a government spokeswoman said. The U.S. Army saw about 92% of its eligible personnel re-enlist for the year ended in September. The prior year’s tally was 83%, a spokeswoman said.
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