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[CARD NEWS: Opinion] The Korean military: a trillion won in corruption and less than minimum wage for soldiers

Mar 22,2017
In Korea’s army, high-ranking officials say corruption is necessary to sustain their lifestyles. Their soldiers, however, are paid less than the minimum wage.


1) In Korea, all men are required to attend reserve force training after they have completed their mandatory military service. A bill proposing minimum wage pay for reservists attending training was introduced on March 20.

2) Average expenditure for attending reserve forces training
Transportation expenses: 13,210 won ($11.76)
Food expenses: 8,980 won
Total: 22,190 won
Payment for the reservists: 13,000 won
(source: government inspection in 2015)

The bill is aimed at eliminating the financial burden, as it’s mandatory for reservists to attend the training.

3) The minimum wage per hour: 6,470 won > hourly wage for soldiers: 1,033 won
However, such financial matters are more urgent for active-duty soldiers than reservists. The minimum wage should be applied to the wages of active-duty soldiers before reservists.

4) While serving the nation, the soldiers are completely isolated from society and their freedoms are restricted. When they are hurt, however, they are hardly taken care of.

5) The soldiers are paid 200,000 won at the most per month. But payment for daily necessities is all on them, and they have no choice but to owe their parents when they go on leave.

6) In the name of patriotism and of the obligation to protect the country, Korean males are told to endure everything. When they get hurt while serving the nation, however, it is the nation that neglects them.

7) Then, let’s picture what would be available if the soldiers get paid the minimum wage during their mandatory military service.

8) The minimum wage per hour (6,470) x hours per day (8) x serving days (640)
= 33.1264 million won (hours of serving based on the Korean army)
Aside from the night shift bonus and their severance pay, the soldiers could get paid around 33 million won during their service.

9) If the soldiers save up their wages, they would be able to handle their rental fee or tuition. Such an amount of money could help our struggling youth.

10) Salaries of soldiers compared to minimum wages
Egypt, Thailand 100%
Brazil 80%
Taiwan 33%
Korea 16%

In Egypt and Thailand, military service is mandatory, just as in South Korea. The difference in their military service from Korea is that the soldiers get paid almost same amount as the minimum wage.

11) Comparing sleeping bags in the Korean army and in market
Market product 1 : 1.1kg, duck down, heat reserving
Market product 2 : 0.8kg, goose down, lightweight
Military : 3.0kg, cotton
(source: the Board of Audit and Inspection)

Spent 950,000 won to buy a USB stick which originally cost 10,000 won

Meanwhile, the government is spending the national defense budget on nonsensical costs. The soldiers use sleeping bags that cost a whopping 160,000 won, and their USB sticks cost 950,000 won.

12) “Corruption in defense is to sustain living,” said Defense Minister Han Min-koo
“In the defense business, a corruption scandal amounts to one trillion won uncovered…. 63 people indicted”
“One trillion won of corruption scandal… the military embroiled”

If one trillion won is budgeted for the “corruption necessary for living” in addition to the nonsensical costs, little will be left to pay the soldiers who are forced to endure all the hardships under the name of what the country calls patriotism.

13) “The country does have money, but the country also has many hidden thieves.”
More and more people approve of this quote these days.
This is not the country our soldiers feel patriotic to serve.
Generals, I understand you’re busy with eking out a living, but I urge you to keep the ugly reality of the country in your mind.



Directed by Lee Jeong-bong
Constructed by Kim Min-pyo
Designed by Bae Seok-yeong
Translated by Son Min-young
Edited by James Constant


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