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Government to Cut Military Service by Six Months

Posted February. 06, 2007 09:18,   


The government will cut the compulsory military service periods of the army, navy, and the air force by six months in phases by 2014, with the period being shortened by 18 to 26 days each year. Those who have served in the military since January of last year will be the first to benefit from the reduction. In addition, alternative social services that will include various civic support programs for nursing homes and centers for the physically and mentally challenged will be introduced next year.

The government announced the “Vision 2030: A Campaign to Have People Start Working Two Years Earlier and Retire Five Years Later” at the Central Government Complex in Seoul on Monday with Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Economy Kwon Oh-kyu, and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education & Human Resources Kim Shin-il attending.

The new plan will reduce the army`s two-year service term to 18 months, with the length for the navy and the air force to be cut to 20 months and 21 months, respectively, starting in 2014.

The government will also abolish various forms of alternative service for draftees who are not regarded as physically fit for the military, such as working at district offices and defense companies, by 2012. Instead, the social service system will be introduced. 35,000 men will serve in the social service sector by helping the elderly and the disabled in such facilities as nursing home and centers for the physically and mentally challenged. The number is expected to increase to 125,000 by 2014.

To make up for the cutback, the government will hire around 2,000 professional soldiers, mostly for positions that require specific training skills such as operating advanced weapons next year, and increase the number to 40,000 by 2020.

In addition, the government will consider changing the current academic year starting in March to September and restructuring the nation`s school system such as the five-year elementary school system to short-cut entry into the labor market.

The government will also make retirement age mandatory, provide financial support for employers to encourage them to extend retirement age, and minimize the problems related to retiree education by strengthening Academy-Industry cooperation.

Critics, however, say that it is a pork-barrel policy because there is no specific plan to finance and implement the government plan. Defense Minister Kim Jang-soo said, “The salaried soldier system is expected to need 1.7 trillion won by 2020,“ but he did not mention specific plans to finance the system. Experts point out that at a time when unemployment is still a big problem, a shortened military service and the reorganization of the school system could intensify the competition in the job market in the short term. In particular, these new plans have faced criticism that the government seems to be in much of a hurry to get the restructuring of the school system done, which requires long preparation and is likely to trigger hot debate. The government announced that it would come up with a blueprint for the reorganization within the first half of this year.