Braving the cold for taste of commando life

Thu Jan 20, 2011 12:50pm EST
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By Dahee Lim

BUCHEON, South Korea (Reuters) - Over a thousand South Korean civilians braved sub-zero temperatures around the country to take part in boot camps run by a special commando unit, hoping to get into shape and improve their self-discipline.

The boot camps, which run for three days and have been held since 2003, are aimed at "educating" civilians about national security in a country that shares a heavily-armed border with North Korea, which in November shelled a South Korean island near their shared sea border, killing several civilians.

About 250 people, including some high school students, took part in the boot camp at Bucheon, just west of Seoul, one of six run around the country.

Instead of staying warm at home during their winter break, participants wearing camouflage dragged parachutes, underwent training in a tear-gas filled hut and took part in "flying fox" exercises from a wooden tower.

The cold was unforgiving, with temperatures hitting -10 C (14.00F) in Seoul and surrounding areas.

"It was very difficult from the beginning, my muscles ached and it hurt a lot," said 18-year-old Kim Myung-jin.

"But I trusted my trainers under the intense situations and sympathized with much of the soldiers' hard work."

South Korea has a mandatory conscription policy for men, who have to complete 24 months of military service between graduating from high school and turning 30.   Continued...

<p>Students holding parachutes, run at a winter boot camp during a photo call at a military unit in Bucheon, west of Seoul January 20, 2011. The boot camp is run by South Korean special forces, who have organised six winter boot camps across the country in January. There are currently 1,200 civilians, including students, participating in the four-day long boot camp. REUTERS/Han Sang-gyun/Yonhap</p>