By Jung Sung-ki
Western mixed-race men can join the military beginning next year.
Currently, Asian mixed-race men, dubbed "Kosians," are subject to the country's conscription system, but "Amerasians" or "Eurasians" are exempted from the mandatory service.
The parliamentary approval of a bill proposed by Rep. Yoo Seung-min of the governing Grand National Party has paved the way for them to join the military.
Western mixed-race men, who have distinctive skin colors, had been exempted because they could have experienced difficulty mixing with Korean colleagues in barracks, the defense ministry had said previously.
"The law will take effect Jan. 1 next year," a defense ministry official said.
"There will be no problem with skin color in joining the Korean military. Once a mixed-race man has Korean nationality and related qualifications, he will be able to serve in the military."
There had been the perception that the minority should understand the culture of the majority, but this has changed substantially, the official said, asking to remain anonymous.
"Now is the time for the majority to understand the culture of the minority," he said.
The ministry will release education materials later this year to help Korean soldiers understand the culture of other nations, the official said.
It also plans to ask mixed-race males whether they would like to join the military alongside regular conscripts, officials said.
This would allow them to go through the five-week pre-service training together. The measure is also aimed at preventing incidents of racially-motivated hazing.
The ministry is also working on other comprehensive measures to make it easier for males from multicultural families to serve in the military, the official said.