Those who have distinct skin colors, such as black or white, are exempted because they might have difficulty mixing with Korean colleagues at barracks, an MMA spokesman. But if an Amerasian or Eurasian wants to serve, the ministry can review his joining the military, he said.
As of last year, there were 148,000 mixed-race families in South Korea, according to government data. The birth rate of the mixed-race families is around 2.3 percent, up 1 percent or more over ordinary families, it said.
The number of Kosians eligible for the mandatory military duty is expected to increase about ten times to 2,200 over the next 10 years, said the spokesman.
From a 2006 UPI article, which like many items of the time contrasted the "Hines Ward craze" with the way visible minorities and biracial Koreans are actually treated:
The government said that a revision of the military conscription law passed by the National Assembly last June included the provision that mixed-race men born after 1986 could enter military service. The law previously banned men who "clearly appear of mixed racial background."
Robert Koehler of The Marmot's Hole, in a comment on a Foreign Dispatches post about what the ban said about Korean racism and xenophobia, gave some insight into why mixed-race Koreans had been theretofore banned from serving in the military:
About the military exemption, the reasoning behind it is not that mixed-race individuals would be prone to treachery. Rather, the exemption is granted because--and with good reason--the authorities believed that social attitudes being what they are, mixed-race individuals would have an extremely difficult time adjusting to barracks life. Life in the Korean military, by most accounts, is tough, with hazing by seniors being pretty rife. The authorities--and they probably meant this with good intentions--felt there was no need to put visably mixed-race individuals in a situation where they would be beaten and abused for two years straight. Anyway, the government passed a revision to the military service law last year allowing mixed-race men into the military if they choose, and there is now debate over whether to ammend the law to extend the mandatory draft to them as well.
I'll close with the comments of Seoul National University's Kim Kwang-eo, in the Korea Times article quoted above:
``With the rise in mixed-race soldiers, the military would become a society where a variety of cultures co-exist, so many different problems might arise,'' the professor said.
He said the military should come up with measures to deal with potential problems with the envisaged multicultural camp culture. The professor suggested that the military establish special training programs on language, culture and others for the mixed-race conscripts.