South Korean Special Forces Train Shirtless in the Snow

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

While some of us are wrapping ourselves in parkas to keep warm this winter, about 200 South Korean soldiers are training in the snowy mountains of Pyeongchang–shirtless.

Since the two Koreas still remain technically at war with each other, South Korea’s Army Special Warfare Command (SWC) is responsible for handling special operations, including guerrilla warfare, assassinations and counter-terrorism. SWC soldiers are sent to the mountains every year to participate in a 10-day winter warfare training, in which they must acclimate themselves to harsh weather conditions. Temperatures in Pyeonchang can drop as low as negative 22 degrees Fahrenheit.

Below are some snapshots of the SWC’s intense training that were taken on Jan. 8. I recommend playing “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from the Mulan soundtrack while scrolling through the following photos.

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SCW soldiers are required to jog shirtless in subzero temperatures as part of their training regimen.

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Soldiers must also perform general exercises, such as sit-ups, topless on the snow. The purpose of these exercises is to push soldiers’ endurance to the limit and to help them prepare for any harsh conditions they may face during missions.

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All members of the SWC are required to achieve a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

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Soldiers wield combat knives as part of their weapons handling training.

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The SWC consists of seven special forces brigades: Eagle, Flying Tiger, Pegasus, Ghost, Golden Bat, Black Panther and Whole World  (formerly known as Black Dragon). In addition, there is a special mission battalion nicknamed “White Tiger.”

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In the picture above, SWC soldiers take their positions in a frozen river. The SWC brigades work closely with the U.S. Army Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets.

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Along with having the ability to withstand freezing temperatures, SWC members must have excellent marksmanship.

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During the winter warfare training, soldiers practice tactical skiing while shooting at virtual targets.

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All SWC members are volunteers who were handpicked to join the elite force.


Featured photo courtesy of Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters