Military service, the countries where it is compulsory in 2023

Uncover the world of compulsory military service as we delve into countries like South Korea, Russia, Singapore, and more. Gain insights into conscription policies, exemptions, and controversies surrounding mandatory military duty in this thought-provoking exploration.
compulsory military service where

Military conscription, also known as mandatory military service or compulsory military duty, is a governmental policy. It requires eligible individuals within a country to serve in the armed forces for a specific period.

Conscription involves the compulsory enlistment of citizens, usually young adults. They undergo military training and serve in the military, either full-time or part-time.

The purpose of conscription is to ensure an adequate supply of national defense and security personnel. Different countries have varying conscription policies. These policies include factors such as age range, duration of service, and exemptions.

Mandatory military service around the world

These are some of the countries where military conscription is still in use in 2023:

North Korea

Military conscription is compulsory in North Korea, although there is ambiguity regarding its legal status. The conscription system in North Korea date back to before the Korean War.

Conscription starts at 14, and military service at 17-30. Men are universally conscripted, women selectively. North Korean military (Korean People’s Army) is one of the largest, relying on conscription for manpower.

South Korea

In South Korea, all non-disabled Korean males between 18 and 28 must serve in the country’s military for approximately two years. This mandatory military service, known as “conscription duty,” is vital to national defense and security. Since 2000, women in South Korea can volunteer for military service, and it is not compulsory.

It is worth noting that military service is mandatory for all 18-year-old males. Recruitment for active duty can only happen between the ages of 18 and 21 for those who have completed secondary education. For those who have only completed high school, recruitment can occur at 22.

Recently, the South Korean parliament passed a bill. The bill allows K-pop stars, including BTS’s Jin, to delay military service until the age of 30. This recognizes the significant contributions of the entertainment industry to the country’s cultural influence.


Males aged 18 to 27 in Russia actively face compulsory military service. Over the years, the length of service has undergone amendments. In the 1980s, the service term was actively shortened to 18 months from the previous two years. However, legislative changes in 1995 increased the duration back to two years.

In 2006, the Russian government and Duma took active measures to reduce the conscription service term. Starting in 2007, they gradually decreased it to 18 months. From 2008 onwards, they further reduced it to one year.

Active efforts were made to implement these changes to eliminate specific legal excuses for non-conscription. They actively abolished exemptions for rural doctors, teachers, and men with children younger than three years old.

Read also: The 6 strongest military powers in the world today


Military conscription in Singapore is known as National Service (NS). It is mandatory for all male citizens and permanent residents (PR) at 18 years old. National Service plays a crucial role in building a strong defense force, given Singapore’s small size and geopolitical context.

NS can be served in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), Singapore Police Force (SPF), or Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF). This is based on individual aptitude and national needs.

The Singaporean government takes NS obligations seriously, and individuals who default on their NS commitments can face legal consequences. For NS defaulters under 40, considerations apply. They may still be required to serve NS but receive a lighter sentence compared to total evasion.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)

In the United Arab Emirates, all Emirati males aged 17 to 30 undergo mandatory national military service (National Service (NS). Introduced in September 2014, it responds to the evolving regional security landscape. The service duration is 16 months, providing training in various military aspects: physical fitness, combat skills, and discipline.

National Service fosters national identity, pride, and responsibility. It contributes to armed forces readiness and preparedness. The program includes military training and community service, fostering holistic development. National Service builds national unity, shared responsibility, and strengthens defense capabilities, promoting patriotism among Emirati citizens.


Military conscription is fundamental to Israeli society. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) relies on conscription for a strong military. In 2020, men served two years and six months, with some roles requiring four additional months.

Women served two years, with certain positions requiring eight more months. Conscription in Israel addresses security challenges, ensuring a large pool of trained personnel for border security. Military service shapes personal and national identities, deeply ingrained in Israeli culture.

How the mandatory military service shapes societies

Countries implement mandatory military service to ensure personnel for defense and security. North Korea, South Korea, Russia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel have compulsory military service with varying durations and conditions. These conscription policies reflect each country’s unique geopolitical, historical, and security contexts.

Military conscription has advantages: building a strong military, and fostering national unity. It also raises debates and challenges: individual rights, gender equality, and exemptions. Understanding compulsory military service in different countries provides insights into its role in shaping societies and ensuring national security.

Read also: The 20 countries in the world which currently have no armed forces 

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