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Military Wants Service Period Cut 2-3 Months, Not 6

Posted November. 25, 2009 08:47,   


The Defense Ministry yesterday suggested that military service should be shortened by two or three months, not six months, to the parliamentary committee on defense.

This is the first time for the ministry to officially oppose the plan to shorten military service by six months made under the previous Roh Moo-hyun administration.

A ministry official said, “The ruling Grand National Party’s Kim Hak-song and Yu Seung-min, who are members of the National Assembly’s National Defense Committee, proposed to revise the Military Service Act to shorten military service by two or three months, not six months. At their request, we submitted a statement on our views in early November.”

In April, Kim proposed to shorten the period by three months. Yu in August then suggested a cut of two months.

The ministry said in a statement, “If the military service period is shortened by two or three months, fears over weakening military strength could be eased. This solution will also help the military respond to a surge in the need for additional military forces that will be required in the process of military reform. Moreover, it will help ease the expected lack of military resources after 2012.”

Clause 19 of the Military Service Act stipulates that the government can adjust the military service period by up to six months through approval from the Cabinet and president. In accordance with the clause, the military in 2007 decided to shorten the Army’s service period from 24 months to 18, the Navy’s service from 26 months to 20, and the Air Force’s service from 28 months to 22.

Experts in and out of the military, however, say an adjustment is needed because Korea has the world’s lowest birth rate and difficulty in building up military forces due to lack of budget. Given these opinions, military authorities apparently concluded that the shortage of soldiers will worsen over time.

The military is expected to fall 2,000 soldiers short annually from 2021 and suffer a lack of up to 90,000 soldiers annually by 2045 if the service period is cut by six months.

The Defense Ministry also changed its forecast for the number of required soldiers. Initially, it said it needs 185,000 soldiers per year from 2020, when basic reform of national defense is completed. That figure, however, has been increased to 248,000.

A military source said, “The basic plan for defense reform has two main points: introduction of a state-of-the-art military force and reduction of troop levels. Due to lack of budget, however, the military has faced difficulties introducing state-of-the-art military forces. Accordingly, it’s hard to shorten the period of military service as planned.”

A final decision on the reduced service period will come after the Korea Institute for Defense Analysis files a report early next year. If the plan to shorten the period is revised, however, the government could face harsh criticism over inconsistent policies.

Men who will have to serve and their families could also put up strong resistance.

A high-ranking military official said, “Local elections will be held next year. Accordingly, politicians will find it hard to deal with this issue, which will make a definite impact on voters."

"The country has also never undone a decision to shorten the military service period. The only exception appeared when North Korea made a provocation. That means it’s technically impossible to change the decision.”