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South Korean Military Deploys Robot Chefs

On Monday, February 7, South Korea’s military showcased its creative lineup of “robot chefs” at a boot camp in an effort to reduce troops’ burden and answer mounting requests to enhance daily meals.

The South Korean government inaugurated “robot chefs” at a boot camp on Monday, amid rising worries over unhealthy food. The government has introduced its new lineup of robot chefs in order to reduce the efforts of Army employees who have been cooking meals for almost 5,50,000 army troops on a daily basis.

South Korea is technically still at war with North Korea. Approximately 550,000 young men in South Korea are presently doing their required military duty. Every able-bodied South Korean male between the ages of 18 and 28 must serve for an average of 18 months. Those who are neither physically or mentally capable of serving in the military are assigned as public servants to local administrative institutions such as nursing homes and district administration offices.

The kitchen has become the next frontier for the military’s tech-based operational strategy, as it attempts to improve efficiency and safety in people management amid fears of troop shortages caused by the country’s persistently low birthrate.

Cooking appliances that follow regulated cooking techniques have also increased food quality.

Military troops complain about poor meals

Military kitchen crew are regarded as one of the most difficult professions among the military occupational specializations. They are the first to wake up at around 5:00 a.m. and the last to retire to bed. They are vulnerable to a variety of safety hazards, including burn injuries and respiratory infections.

Military cooks are continuously stressed because they do not get enough sleep. The cooks have frequently complained of headaches and other muscle-related ailments when preparing meals for such a big number of defense troops.

Despite the efforts of the military culinary staff, the debate about the poor quality of military meals has raged for a long time. It is due to the fact that members of a kitchen crew are chosen from among conscripted males regardless of their professional credentials.

Military troops have often complained about bad food. Some army personnel even uploaded photos of the meals they are served in the army barracks. According to the military officer, the government has since planned to include robotics devices into the army kitchen.

Previously, the military was chastised for underfeeding its troops. The troops of “Generation-Z,” or those born between 1997 and the mid-2000s, aired their rage on social media by posting images of their meals.

“I expect that the pilot deployment of the military cooking robots is expected to generate various outcomes, including the improvement in the quality of meals, less work burden for military chefs and prevention of safety accidents,” Defence Minister Suh Wook was quoted as saying during his visit to the boot camp.

“The defence ministry will continue to provide demand and test-beds for commercial robots, creating a virtuous cycle that develops the robot industry in the private sector,” added Suh.

Robot chefs are necessary

Employing robot chefs is no longer an option for South Korea’s 550,000-strong military, but rather a necessity.

While all able-bodied South Korean men are required to serve in the military for two years, the country is predicted to run out of troops by 2037 due to its low birthrate.

The Defence Ministry stated that it need at least 200,000 additional conscripts each year to sustain its military. However, the number of males aged 20 in South Korea is expected to reach 184,000 by 2037.

Employing robot chefs started in 2021

This was not the first time the government has sent robot chefs to army bases. The government, particularly the Army’s 28th Recruit Training Regiment at Nonsan, 213 kilometers south of Seoul, previously deployed a series of robot chefs capable of deep-frying, stir-frying, boiling, and steaming meals in November of last year. However, at the time, authorities stated that they were testing the high-tech devices at the time.

Army officials stated that the newly enrolled chefs have relieved military cooks of manual labor or repetitive tasks. According to the official, the robot chefs would help reduce unintentional accidents such as burns and musculoskeletal diseases. According to the military spokesman, the quality of meals has also increased since the machines were deployed.

Robot chefs demonstrated their cooking skills

The defense ministry of South Korea evaluated four distinct types of robot chefs in order to lessen the pressure on military cooks and the possibility of safety incidents. Currently, 24 human military cooks are in charge of feeding 3,000 soldiers at Nonsan, the country’s largest army boot camp located 154 kilometers (96 miles) south of Seoul.

According to a statement issued by the Ministry of National Defense on February 7, the ministry began a demonstration of four varieties of robot chefs at a boot camp in Nonsan in November 2021. The robot chefs fry, stir-fry, and make soups and grains. According to the military ministry, the robot chefs were used to lessen the dangers of burn injuries and musculoskeletal disorders caused by excessive cookhouse work.

When a human cook sets ingredients in a cage, a frying robot will begin cooking on its own. A conveyor belt will transport fried menus from the hot oil kettle. Hundreds of kilos of rice will be washed by an automated rinse system. Currently, human chefs wash rice in large bowls with specially designed metal shovels. To equally combine and cook ingredients, autonomous stir-frying robot chefs employ unique mechanical kitchen thongs.

Robot chefs are mostly used to prepare fried chicken in South Korea. In August 2021, popular chicken business Kyochon inaugurated the brand’s first location featuring a robot chef that assists human employees in the kitchen in the western port city of Incheon.



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