Every person goes through various experiences in life which at times are unique or have some similarities to other occurrences somewhere else. In my case, I have gone through a social experience similar to that depicted in the “The Handmaid’s Tail” by Margaret Atwood. This experience occurred when I was serving in the military. In the Handmaid’s tale, a dystopian Republic of Gilead in its quest for a supposedly superior society resulted to a society that sacrificed and undermined of women’s rights. In this society, the rich and powerful were favored, while the ordinary people were suppressed.
As a matter of my fate, all men in Korea have to serve in the military for two years. During this time, they endure not only a lot of training but also a life with seniors in the barracks. Just like in this tale, the Korean military is an organized functional society with very strict rules. In addition, the military has its barracks based away from the cities where officers live in isolation. Usually, same squad members live together in a barrack which called “life house”. There are four classes of soldier who live together in a single life house.
This composed of a sergeant, corporal, private first, and a private. I belonged to a squad which followed to the letter a strong set of rules and regulations which were based on the rank of each class. These rules were observed regardless of time, place and situation. Usually, almost all squads have their own traditional conditions and rules based on the class. In my squad, lower class had to obey higher class whatever they ask nom matter how annoying it might be. Additionally, there are some restrictions and conditions what we could do or can not do based on the class.
For example, a private can not watch the T. V, make a call to a friend, smoke a cigarette, or even go to “PX” which is a cafeteria where soldiers do buy some snacks without permission from a higher rank8ing officer. These rules are followed even when privates have free time until when a private attains the rank of a sergeant. There are many forms of restrictions he had to endure which curtails the conduct soldier making it discriminative from those of higher class. When a private becomes a private first, he can smoke a cigarette, and make a call by himself without the permission of a higher ranking officer.
When he becomes a corporal, he does not need to get permission to watch a T. V, and go to “PX” any more. Becoming a sergeant is just like becoming what I can literally call “the God of a barracks”. This is because they do not have to participate in anything that happens in a life house. This includes activities such as cleaning clothes, and keeping house tidy. His work is only to carry out inspection of life house. As a matter of fact, a sergeant is the highest ranked soldier. Since he has little time left in the army, he is excused from almost every duty that involves manual work.
Usually, private and private first do everything under corporate’s direction and inspection by platoon leader who is a career soldier before soldiers go to sleep. Restriction is not only annoying thing for the soldiers but also responsibilities which reduces as they are move up to higher classes. The highest one usually does nothing but they can order anything they want to be done for them by officers of lower classes. The highest one is like the commander in the Gilead society. The corporal is similar to the eyes in the Gilead society who usually announce the sergeant’s message and supervise lowers as they carry out he specified orders.
Next, private first who is similar to the aunt class in the Gilead society supervise and teach privates and do the chores together. On the other hand, privates who are similar to handmaids in the Gilead society do not have any right for themselves. They just follow what those in higher classes ask them to do. This includes cleaning all of clothes belonging to officers of the higher classes, life house, boots, and also ironing uniform. This weird and unfair rules and conditions are handed down year after year.
When I became a sergeant, I cancelled some of these weird rules because I had become sick of theme and I wanted to form a better society. At the same time, the minister of National Defense of Korea ordered me to remove some of those bad habits because they had been known to cause many troubles. These oppressive rules made many officers to commit suicides Very often in the Korean army. As a result of these changes, nowadays usually almost all soldiers in Korea have same rights and privileges and it is very hard to find a higher ranking officer ordering lower officers like it used to be in the past.
Courtney from Study Moose
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