The South Korean submarine ROKS Ahn Mu is unveiled on Geojedo Island, South Korea, Nov. 10, 2020.

The South Korean submarine ROKS Ahn Mu is unveiled on Geojedo Island, South Korea, Nov. 10, 2020. (South Korean navy)

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — One of the United States’ closest military allies has selected its first group of enlisted women to serve aboard submarines starting next year.

Seven female noncommissioned officers were chosen from more than 20 applicants to undergo training for submarine service, the Ministry of National Defense said in a press release Monday.

Training is expected to last until January or February and is required for all submariners, a South Korean navy spokesman told Stars and Stripes by phone Tuesday.

Two commissioned naval officers selected last month to serve on a submarine are also undergoing training, the spokesman added.

Of the more than 41,000 sailors in the South Korean navy, at least 2,800 are women, according to the spokesman.

South Korean government officials typically speak to the media on condition of anonymity.

South Korean women were previously barred from serving in submarines due to the space required for separate living spaces.

The South Korean navy in July deemed two 3,000-ton submarines could meet the needs for accommodating women submariners: the ROKS Dosan Ahn Chango-ho and the ROKS Ahn Mu, South Korean-built vessels capable of launching ballistic missiles.

Women in South Korea have served in the military since the 1950-’53 Korean War in positions such as the nursing corps, a spokesman for the Institute for Military History told Stars and Stripes by phone Tuesday.

South Korea joins the United States, Canada and Japan, among other nations with women submariners.

The U.S. lifted its ban on women submariners in 2010 and first permitted female officers to serve aboard the vessels, followed by enlisted women three years later, according to the Navy’s website.

Stars and Stripes reporter Yoo Kyong Chang contributed to this report.

David Choi is based in South Korea and reports on the U.S. military and foreign policy. He served in the U.S. Army and California Army National Guard. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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