Recently there was an ongoing debate whether to expand the term of military service or not. Before the debate, the term was about 1 year and 10 months. However, Ministry of National Defense tried to reduce the term to 1 year and a half. This was the plan called “Military 2020” a plan to reduce the soldiers to about 500 thousand and invest the money on making state-of-the-art machineries. However, in 2008 there was a big economic crisis so the cost of the arms skyrocketed. Not only this factor, Chonanham Incident in 2010 brought many wavelengths to Ministry of National Defense. Thus, it was finally determined that the term should be reduced to 1 year and 9 months.
This was not the first time the Ministry tried to change the term. In fact, it has been one of the vital electoral commitments as populism. From the statistics in MBC, when a candidate is likely to put military term in his or her public promise, it would effect their support by ±4%. However, as there were trials to change the term, there were always various conflicts. Then why are there conflicts whenever the Ministry is trying to alter their policy? What are the pros and cons of this?
The More, the Better
Those who believe that it is unnecessary to reduce the term believes that by pushing the lessening it, more than 20% of the military strength will fall out, which will be critical when North Korea attacks. Currently, we have about 560 thousand infantrymen, 60 thousand marines, and 50 thousand air forces; when the reduction of the term is adapted, infantrymen are the likely target of reduction. However, like it or not, because North Korea have 91 troops of special forces, it is imperative that we sustain the number of infantrymen which will be an essential factor that would block their attack.
Also, the economic recession has brought about the sudden rise of the price of weaponry which made Korea very hard to purchase them. South Korea spent approximately 43% of the whole estimate last year as a military budget. However, due to the recession, it was inevitable to reduce the military budget which made it more hard to buy weaponries. Therefore, it is predicted that Korea will be losing about 14% of military force loss for some while when they carry out the policy.
Moreover, there are people who contend that if reducing the term, there will be hard to secure the numbers of good school group commander or commissioned officer. ‘It take about 19 months to foster elite infantrymen. 18 months to make elite artillery and about 21 months to make a elite air forces. Thus, when decreasing of the term is adjusted, there will be less elite soldiers, which will lead to lessening of the military force’ said Song young-sun, a assembly man of Grand National Party.
Little Pepper can Be Hot
Those who once supported the ‘Military 2020’ state that it is absurd for the Ministry to make a new policy to increase the term. They state that they can not understand why the Ministry made a sudden change in the policy even though they passed ‘Mliitary 2020’ in the year of 2009. They believe that the Ministry knew that there would be a reduction of military force after pushing the term reduction policy, there was supposed to be commanders who oppose to the plan, but at that time when they passed the policy, there were no struggles fighting that the policy is flawed.
Also, they insist that long term is not the key to having a strong army. When we look at the OECD countries, there are 7 countries that are said to have more military force than South Korea. However, their military service term is about 12 to 15 months.
Furthermore, even though many people assert that long term is the key to having a strong army but when we look at North Korea, theirs is 10 years but their military force is lower than that of South Korea. ‘Many politicians assert that 24 months is needed to foster elite soliders who can handle cutting edge facilities. However, this can be done by employing career officers who can work for a long time. So to employee more career officers, we need to provide more incentives to those who work as a commander in military service’ said Professor Park in ROTC Hanyang.
Clear Negotiations Are Needed
Our Ministry has fallen into a dilemma. It is evident that threat by the North Korea is arising but still do not have enough estimate to strengthen our weaponry. Also, even though the Ministry tries to increase the soldiers to alternate the low estimate, there are lots of backlash by those who have not yet done the military service. Thus, it is necessary for the Ministry to make a clear negotiation with the opposite views. Various merits for those who are having the military service and efficiently using the national defense budget is necessary. Also to make a more specialized army, we need to prosper ‘Volunteer Soldier Service’ for those who are willing to serve in the military. Moreover, there must not be enforced policy so slackers are not able to evade the military service. ‘Reducing the term directly effect national security. In other words, it is a very important social issue. So the Ministry must negotiate in order to make a strong army in the future which Korean citizens will consent with. This negotiation will be very important in succeeding the spirit of ‘Military 2020’ said Prof. Park.