Since its inception, the South Korean military, like an Althusserian ideological state apparatus, has served to articulate and disseminate state ideology through what is called the military moral education or ideological training program (chŏngsin or chŏnghun kyoyuk), which instructed soldiers in Korean history, society, and politics. A close reading of moral education textbooks from the Syngman Rhee (1948–60) and Park Chung Hee (1961–79) eras thus shows the content and themes of state ideology, which went beyond simple anti-communism and can instead be summed up as “transcendent nationalism”: a potent, fascistic mixture of ethnic nationalism, anti-communism, and anti-liberal collectivism that emphasized individual loyalty and sacrifice to the supreme representative of the Korean nation, the South Korean state. As part of a larger state ideological complex and as an ideological apparatus in its own right, the military moral education program should be examined to offer a better understanding of South Korean ideology and political discourse and the rise of anti-communist nationalist ideological hegemony during the Cold War. This large-scale effort to indoctrinate South Korean men, in which military moral education played a crucial part, arguably contributed to a significant degree of societal consent behind the Park Chung Hee regime.

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