JAN 20 EDITIONNational ServiceTrending


By: Arinze Nwachukwu

Service to humanity they say is the best work of life, but rendering such service to nation and its people, it becomes the service to God. Serving in the military or paramilitary is considered one of the most patriotic services one can render to his nation. In fact, it is considered as a clarion call that every citizen must heed to in some countries. People with exceptional records in this service whether in the military or paramilitary are considered as patriots and most times are designated with national honors either in their life-time or posthumous.

Globally, nations have their own militaries. How citizens are enlisted for military service are dependent on the country’s laws. In some nations, military service is voluntary. Citizens on their own volition, opt to be recruited into the military as their career. In other nations, there is a conscription system. This can also be called a draft, where a group of people (such as men over the age of 18) are mandated to sign up for military service but may not report for duty unless they are called upon to serve. Other nations have compulsory military service, where all citizens or a selected group must sign up to serve their country. And there are nations that have a combination of these systems. Several nations have compulsory, or required, military service as well as voluntary military service. Those nations are Bermuda, Burundi, Singapore, Sweden, Thailand, and Venezuela. The United States of America does not have compulsory military service, but it is also included in this list because all males between the ages of 18 and 25 must register with the Selective Service to be drafted into the service if the need arises.

Conscription or draft military service is a common practice in several nations such as South Korea, Israel, Singapore, and North Korea to mention just a few.


Conscription has existed in South Korea since 1957. It requires male citizens between the ages of 18 and 35 to perform mandatory military service. Women are not required to perform military service, but they may join the military.

Indian National Service Scheme

Legally, when a Korean man turns 18 years old, he is enlisted for “first citizen service,” meaning he is accountable for military duty, but he is not yet required to serve. When he turns 19 years old (or, in some instances, 20 years old), he is required to undertake a physical examination to determine whether he is fit for military service. The person will be graded after the physical exam; there are grade categories 1 – 7. After the exercise, if his grade falls within 1 – 5, he is to be enlisted for active duty service, supplemental service or the second citizen service, based on his qualifications, such as educational background and age. If the person’s grade is grade 6, he would be exempted from the service. It means that the person is either handicapped, mentally or physically incompetent to perform military service.

But if it is grade 7, it means that he was unable to be graded due to any temporary disease or temporary mental or physical incompetence; the person is required to undergo a follow-up physical examination within two years. The duration of compulsory military service in South Korea varies based on military branch. Active duty soldiers would serve 18 months in the Army or Marine Corps, 20 months in the Navy, and 22 months in the Air Force. After conscripts finish their military service, they are inevitably placed on the reserve roster and are obliged to attend a few days of annual military training for 6 years.

Non-active duty personnel, or “supplemental service” personnel serve for different lengths: 21 months for social work personnel (better known as public service worker – a personnel commanded to do public service work at places that require ancillary workers such as Local community centers like City Hall, Government Agencies, and Public Facilities like Subway Station) or international cooperation service personnel; 34 months for arts and sports personnel or industrial technical personnel; and 36 months for public health doctors, lawyers, veterinarians, or expert researchers.

South Korea currently has among the longest military service periods in the world, ranked behind Israel, Singapore, and North Korea. In 2010, there was increasing public pressure to either shorten the duration of conscription or to switch to voluntary military service, and calls from experts for a gradual phasing out of conscription rather than complete abolition. However, in December 2010, after considering the ROKS Cheonan sinking in 2010 and bombardment of Yeonpyeong incidents, the South Korean government said it would not reduce the length of the military service.


Conscription exists in Israel for all Israeli citizens over the age of 18 who are Jewish, Druze, or Circassia; Arab citizens of Israel are not conscripted.

Eritrean Volunteers in Training.

Other exemptions are made on religious, physical, or psychological grounds. The normal duration of compulsory service is currently two years and eight months for men (with some roles requiring an additional four months of service), and two years for women (with some roles that requiring an additional eight months of service). In 2013, 26% of potential conscripts were exempted from military service: 13.5% for religious reasons, 4% for mental health related reasons, 2% for physical health related reasons, 3% due to criminal records, and 3% due to residing abroad. The Israeli Defense Service Law controls or regulates these duties and exceptions. According to the Defense Service Law, the mobilization to the Israeli Defense Forces is mandatory for all Israeli citizens who have turned 18 years of age (with the afore-mentioned exemptions enshrined in the Defense Service Law).


Conscription occurs in North Korea despite vagueness concerning its legal status. Men are generally conscripted while females undergo selective conscription. Conscription takes place at age 17 and service ends at 30. Children of the political elites are exempt from conscription, as are people with bad songbun (ascribed social status in North Korea). Enlistment is done on the basis of annual targets drawn up by the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea and implemented locally by schools. Conscription first began before the Korean War.

Initially, under the rule of Kim Il-sung, forced conscription was largely not necessary because the level of voluntary enlistment was high due to financial rewards. Under Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un (present leader of North Korea) these rewards have reduced. North Korea is considered the world’s most militarized society. As many as one in three North Koreans may be recruited at one of many military organizations at any given time. Other countries like Russia, China, Brazil, and Sweden have military conscription – though their military personnel systems vary greatly in policy, objectives, and structure. Some of the key differences in conscription models include gender, age groups, service time periods, the number of conscripts required, the goals of mandatory service, the existence of an alternative service option, and public opinion surrounding the draft.

The United States of America has a slightly different approach. Although the United States requires many things of its citizens, besides jury duty, the federal government does not currently mandate service. However, for much of U.S. history the nation required young men to serve in the military, both for emergency wartime drafts and in peace time through a process known as standing conscription. Standing conscription guaranteed the military had enough personnel to counter threats. In 1973, standing conscription, which had been in place for 25 years, ended and the U.S. military shifted to a voluntary enlisted force backstopped by provisions for an emergency draft. By law, men 18 to 25 years of age are required to register with the Selective Service System, to be potentially called for mandatory military service.

In order to learn more about the various mandatory service requirements, the Commission met with representatives from Norway, Nigeria, Estonia, and Colombia at the Norwegian Embassy last month. The discussion helped the Commission understand the types of programs these countries developed, how those programs meet the unique challenges faced by each country, and the impact they have on their citizens, communities, and countries. The Commission is still chewing its findings to know what is necessarily right for the United States. As the Commission discusses mandatory service and its implications for the United States, it will certainly consider the factors that make the US unique, including its demographics, geography and values.

Apart from the conscription, mandatory and voluntary military service, there are other mandatory national services practiced in several nations of the world, namely; in 2018, France, Morocco, and Colombia were in the spotlight when it came to mandatory service.

France pronounced that beginning in 2019, it will require all men and women at age 16 to commit a month to learning service skills, such as first aid, and applying these skills in real- word settings. After completing their mandatory one month of service, they will be encouraged to volunteer for three to twelve months. Volunteer service could include tutoring, helping the environment, or supplementing national defense and security through army, police, or civil security.

Morocco likewise announced that it will reinstate compulsory military service. All men and women between the age of 19 and 25 years old will be required to serve in the Moroccan military for twelve months.
Colombia currently has a compulsory military service requirement for all its male citizens. This summer, Colombia reduced the duration of service from twenty-four months to eighteen months.

These are just three of the many countries around the globe that require their citizens to serve in one way or the other. In total, about seventy-five countries have some form of mandatory service. Nigeria, Germany, and Denmark are among countries with mandatory national service.

Nigeria has a general mandatory national service scheme called the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). The NYSC scheme was created on 22 May 1973 as an avenue for the reconciliation, reconstruction, and rebuilding of the nation after the Nigeria-Biafra civil war. It was established based on decree No. 24 which states that the scheme was created “with a view to the proper encouragement and development of common ties among the youths of Nigeria and the promotion of national unity”

Related Articles