South Korea's Navy has decided to allow female sailors to serve on submarines for the first time, starting in 2024, its officials said Friday, a move to broaden their military roles amid prospects of troop shortages caused by the country's low birthrate.
The Navy made the decision during Thursday's key policy meeting, making South Korea the world's 14th nation with a personnel assignment policy enabling female service members to join the submarine crew, according to the armed service.
Under the decision, the Navy plans to select female sailors for submarine responsibilities next year and start dispatching them to serve on a 3000-ton submarine in 2024.
Female sailors had not been allowed to serve on submarines as relatively small vessels have not been equipped with basic facilities to enable their service. But South Korea's acquisition of the mid-class 3,000-ton vessel has paved the way for their submarine duty.
In 2014, the Navy first considered the feasibility of female sailors operating on submarines. In May this year, it gave some 50 female sailors a tour of a mid-class submarine to solicit their opinions.
"From the perspective of a female solider, I felt work conditions there were sufficient," one of them was quoted as saying. "Should I be selected as the first female submarine crew member, I would be very proud of myself."
She, however, noted that there could be difficulties in living inside the submarine compared with life aboard larger surface ships.
Norway started putting female troops on submarine duty in 1985, becoming the first nation to do so. Currently, 13 nations, including the United States, Australia, Canada and Japan, have female submarine crewmembers. (Yonhap)