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[Opinion] Incentives for Serving in the Military

Posted April. 24, 2007 03:02,   


I had a chance to visit West Point in the mid-1990s. It took approximately two to three hours to get there from New York City. When I was passing by a small city on the way, a marching band and war veterans were parading down the streets. People were gathering to see them. That day was June 25; I totally forgot the significance and was ashamed of it.

The armed forces of Korea protected the country during the Korean War. National security has never faltered thanks to the ceaseless efforts of Korean soldiers to safeguard the nation from the numerous attacks by the North for the past five decades. The Korean War, Vietnam War, and anti-espionage operations against the North claimed around 150,000 men and women in uniform. Still, it is nearly impossible to see any voluntary memorial services conducted by local citizens, even though serving on active military duty means making sacrifices for the nation.

The majority of Koreans think it is “no good” for anyone if they decided to serve in the military, and even the commander-in-chief said the military is “rotting.” However, the constitution dictates in the 1st clause of the article 29 that every citizen has the responsibility to serve in the military, and in the 2nd clause, it says no one who served in the military should be discriminated against. Using this clause, those who were in the military say that they should be treated equally on par with others, because the discrimination will sap the morale of the military as a whole, and encourage wrongdoing related to military service.

The ministry of defense kindled a related discussion by saying that it is reviewing ways to provide incentives for those who have completed their military service. The constitutional court ruled unconstitutional in 1999 the excessive provision of additional points (3-5%) to people who served in the military when they take national exams to become public officials. Giving incentives is okay as long as they are not too excessive, because if not, others such as men exempt from military service may take to the streets to protest against them. One thing is clear: those who choose to be in harm’s way for the country should not feel shortchanged.

Yuk Jeong-soo, Editorial Writer, sooya@donga.com