Posted May. 23, 2017 06:16,
Updated May. 23, 2017 06:18
Korean men over 50 still recall cold weather and hunger that they suffered during military service. While severe cold makes soldiers shiver from early autumn to late spring, hunger tortures their body and soul 24/7 for 365 days. Upon entering the boot camp, they instantly know that it is no exaggeration to say that they get hungry even right after finishing their meal. Many reserved forces remember the taste of bread that they bought at a base exchange. Hwang Seok-young, a famous Korean writer, wrote about a soldier who stole and ate up five bags of hardtacks at night was happily choked to death, when he was a recruit.
An army sergeant’s monthly salary rose to over 10,000 won (8.94 dollars) in 1992 compared with 1,000 won (0.89 dollar) in 1970. You could buy a few cigarettes and a couple of loaves of bread with it. While an army sergeant’s salary is 216,000 won (193.12 dollars) per month this year, one can manage to buy one’s personal stuff such as cigarettes, soaps and toilet paper, and cover fees for washing machines and dryer with the value. A recent defense ministry survey said 78 percent of soldiers think their monthly salary is not enough.
The government plans to increase soldiers’ monthly salary by 33 percent next year. It is a step taken as a follow up of President Moon Jae-in’s campaign pledge to increase soldiers’ salary on a gradual basis to 700,000 won (625.84 dollars) or 50 percent of the minimum wage by 2020. A sergeant’s current monthly salary of 216,000 (193.12 dollars) is only 15 percent of the minimum wage, similar to that of Turkey among countries adopting conscription. Those in Vietnam (27 percent), Taiwan (33 percent) Israel (34 percent), and event Thailand (100 percent) are paid more than those in Korea. It make sense that the Justice Party criticized the low pay, citing it as a “patriotic pay.”
Former President Park Geun-hye’s campaign pledge to grant three million won (2,682 dollars) together in the name of “funds for hopes” when soldiers leave army changed into an installment deposit program. If soldiers’ salary rises to 50 percent of the minimum wage as President Moon pledged, it will be around 14 million won (12,516 dollars). The defense ministry is considering paying 10 million won (8,940 dollars) in a lump sum, which is worth more than a college tuition for a semester. President Moon said he is obsessed with the thought that he should keep his promises. Many young people will think that the pledge should be implemented with an obsession.