I met an American girl a few days ago who shared her experiences in the United States military. She mostly complained about the poor quality and character of many of the "elite" in the military. According to her, career soldiers don't come from very well educated backgrounds and grow up with a narrow mentality and limited exposure to the rest of the world. Many of them join the military and apply their narrow view of the world into their organization. Basically, her experience in the military sucked because of the stupidity she was exposed to.
This has been pretty much the same experience I have had during my military service. Many members of the officer and NCO corps of the ROK military are there not because of a "warrior's calling," but there is nothing else for them to do in the civilian world. Applying for the military is easy and barring physical deformities or a criminal record, anybody can become a professional soldier, although maintaining a long career is a different story. You need a job? Join the military. They'll take anybody who can hold a gun.
As a result, most of the professional soldiers I've met were extremely ignorant, bigoted, and trashy. They were basically Korean versions of white trash back in the States. Many of them were thugs in uniform. I don't fault them for their ignorance, but I don't trust them to act professionally and responsibly. If you have read my other entries, you'll know many of these people abuse their position of power and treat their subordinates like crap. They violate their own rules and play petty office politics. This is the image that the average Korean conscript has of professional soldiers. The average Korean conscript is also the average male Korean citizen.
Korean officers often compare themselves to their American counterparts and envy the respect and admiration American soldiers receive from American citizens. The Koreans whine about the little respect the receive from their citizens, and it is true; the average Korean doesn't think very highly of soldiers. This has a lot to do with Korea's history of oppressive military regimes, but it also has to do with how the average Korean is treated when he is in the military. Before bitching and moaning about how little respect they get from the people, the "professionals" in the ROK military need to remember that the conscripts they shit on are going to be tax-payers and voters when they're discharged. Before bitching about how ungrateful civilians are of their service, they should be grateful of our involuntary service to them.