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Defense budget plan is largest ever

Increase is intended to boost deterrence, curb threat from the North

June 18,2015
The Ministry of National Defense has created its largest-ever budget proposal, mainly aimed at building deterrence infrastructure against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, which it submitted to the Ministry of Strategy and Finance.

The proposal for next year’s defense budget was 40.13 trillion won ($35.9 billion), 7.16 percent larger than this year’s budget, according to the Defense Ministry. This is the first time officials have drawn up a defense budget proposal that totals more than 40 trillion won.

“We want to allocate more funds to improve soldiers’ welfare and conditions in the barracks, as well as to build the Korea Air and Missile Defense [KAMD] system against North Korean missiles and nuclear weapons,” a defense official said.

“The cost for force maintenance was decided at 27.75 trillion won, 5 percent more than this year, and the cost for the force improvement program was increased by 12.4 percent to 12.36 trillion won.”

Korea has said it will build its own KAMD shield to deter the North’s attacks, which focuses on terminal-phase, low-altitude missile defense.

The military also said it will establish what is known as the Kill Chain, an integrated information, surveillance and pre-emptive strike system designed to precisely eliminate North Korean threats before they are launched.

Defense officials said it will take years to complete the two systems, perhaps by around 2022, at a cost of 17 trillion won.

A detailed look at the budget proposal also showed that the military is seeking to invest a large amount of the budget into bolstering programs that would build systems designed to deter the North Korean nuclear and missile attacks, including the KAMD and the Kill Chain.

“We want to spend 458 billion won to improve our surveillance capabilities, which will include Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles and military satellites,” the official said.

By 2022, the military plans to introduce five surveillance satellites. The contract will be signed during the second half of this year, and 64.3 billion won will be spent next year.

“Another 734.3 billion won will be spent to secure capabilities, including ship-to-ground guided missiles to precisely strike key strategic targets,” he said.

He added that an additional 1.56 trillion won will be invested into the KAMD program and the Kill Chain, 68.8 percent more than the 929.8 billion won allotted this year.

The ministry also tried to secure 734.3 billion won for six projects to improve the defense capabilities of major military installations and within the capital region.

A large investment is also planned to improve working conditions for soldiers. Reflecting the government’s policy to encourage child birth, actively enlisted soldiers and full-time reservists with children will be given a 200,000 won per month for child care expenses.

The ministry has also decided to increase soldiers’ monthly salaries, which was one of President Park Geun-hye’s election pledges. For a corporal, average monthly salary will be increased to 178,000 won next year from this year’s 154,800 won.

That amount will be gradually increased to 195,000 won in 2017 - double the amount from 2012.

However, it still remains to be seen whether the proposal will survive in the legislature.

“Last year, we outlined a 2015 defense budget request for 38.3 trillion won, but about 1 trillion won was cut by the Ministry of Strategy and Finance and the National Assembly,” according to a Defense Ministry official. “This year’s increased budget proposal is indispensable in preparing for threats from North Korea and to improve barrack culture for young soldiers.”

BY JEONG YONG-SOO, SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]


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