Go to contents

Military Seeks to Lower Civilian Participation

Posted May. 23, 2008 03:48,   


The Defense Ministry is set to overhaul its plan to increase the number of civilians in the military, which was initiated as part of the Roh Moo-hyun administration’s effort to create a more efficient military.

According to the ministry on Thursday, Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee recently instructed all ministry departments to separate jobs that require military expertise.

In response, each department has been reporting positions that they believe require hands-on military expertise, including some of the department and section chiefs appointed during the Roh administration.

The move came after the mounting criticism from military officers who claim that an increasing number of servicemen on active duty have been excluded from the process of establishing national defense policies. More than 70 percent of the military posts have gradually been filled up with civilians in accordance to the previous administration’s military reform plan.

Of the 16 department heads at the Defense Ministry, only five are currently military officers. The rest are civilians. Likewise, of the 69 section chief positions, 20 are colonels, while the other 49 are government officials.

“Ignoring the extraordinary nature of military positions, an excessive portion of (military) positions have been taken by civilians. This also has drastically limited the chance for military officials with experience in combat units to raise their voice in the establishment of defense policies,” said a military official.

Many military insiders believe that the current level of civilians in the military will be lowered once the ministry finishes reviewing the plan.

Another official said that Minister Lee’s inaugural pledge to transform the manpower-based military into a “specialized one” has encountered criticisms. “Some have criticized Lee, saying replacing military officials with public servants goes against creating a specialized military,” said the official.

Some experts believe that the recent measure heralds an extensive revision of the Defense Reform 2020 program, established by the Roh administration.

Though the Defense Ministry plans to complete the program by 2020, some of the projects to strengthen its warfare capacity have been delayed due to a budget shortfall of over 1.5 trillion won between 2006 and 2008.

A military source said that the military is carefully reviewing all aspects of the Defense Reform 2020 program, including personnel matters and unit structure reforms. “We cannot rule out the possibility that the reform plan will be delayed or significantly modified unless overall circumstances improve, including the budget,” the source said.