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Draft likely to be reduced

Ministry backs possible 3-month cut in length of duty

Nov 25,2009
The Ministry of National Defense in Seoul has agreed to some lawmakers’ suggestion that the mandatory service period for soldiers must be cut by two to three months, rather than six months.

Two years ago, the ministry pushed for a six-month reduction to the 24-month service term for the Army, 26-month term of the Navy and 28-month term for the Air Force.

Kim Hak-song and Yoo Seong-min, two Grand National Party members on the National Assembly standing committee on national defense, proposed a motion to call for two to three months’ worth of reduction. Currently, the government plans to cut the service by six months by June 2014.

At the request of the two lawmakers, the Defense Ministry yesterday sent a report that sided with their proposal. According to the ministry, the report read, “By cutting the service time by only two to three months, we can alleviate concerns over compromised combat power and also stay prepared for the demand for additional troops during the nation’s pursuit of its defense reform plans.”

It was referring to the project called Defense Reform 2020, which aims to streamline armed forces and modernize weapons systems by the year 2020. The ministry added that the report concluded that the lawmakers’ proposal would also help ease manpower problems caused by a decline in the eligible male population.

Under the reform, the nation plans to shrink the size of the armed forces from 655,000 today to around 500,000 by 2020. But the ministry estimates that if it sticks with the six-month reduction plan, the nation’s military would be about 2,000 men short in 2021 and up to 90,000 by 2045.

Yoo has estimated that if the length of the service is only cut by two months, the shortage will not occur until 2025 or later. According to projected data by the defense ministry, the number of healthy men who turn 20 in a given year, thus eligible for the mandatory service, will peak at 328,000 in 2012 but drop to 248,000 by 2021.

The ministry has considered other measures to compensate for loss of manpower. Earlier this month, defense officials said they were considering letting women enlist and join conscripted men in service. Presently, women may only enlist as officers or non-commissioned officers.

The ministry yesterday insisted it was not against the reduction of the service itself in principle since canceling the plan altogether would generate “a political and social controversy.”


By Yoo Jee-ho [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]



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