[EDITORIALS]The draft turns political

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[EDITORIALS]The draft turns political

Shortening the military service period is a pledge of some presidential candidates; that shows how desperate the candidates are to win votes and how a significant number of campaign pledges will be empty ones.

Roh Moo-hyun of the Millennium Democratic Party criticized his rival, Lee Hoi-chang of the Grand National Party, last month for making a pork-barrel pledge after Mr. Lee vowed to reduce military service by two months if he wins the election. Mr. Roh said the promise is unrealistic because few men are joining the military voluntarily.

But Mr. Roh then upped the ante by pledging a few days ago to shorten Korean men's military service by four months. Asked if he was copying his rival, Mr. Roh said he had determined that a four-month cut was appropriate, even though just 20 days ago he criticized his rival for being unrealistic. Now he says his larger cut is the result of a thorough review. An MDP representative, Chun Yong-taek, added, "I insisted on a six-month cut just until this morning." The Roh camp's explanation that the pledge was considered thoroughly and the military manpower shortage could be stemmed by other measures is unconvincing.

The Ministry of National Defense said the current 26-month service period was appropriate considering the country's force structure, adding unofficially that a two-month cut would be manageable. The military seemed to say that was a burden it could bear to accommodate many youngsters who want to return to their universities on time. If the president is determined to make a four-month cut, what the military thinks is probably not very important. The Roh camp will, however, have a hard time avoiding criticism for being irresponsible, since it criticized the Lee camp for being unrealistic.

The Grand National Party has a majority in the National Assembly. We wonder why it promised to shorten military service at this point. The Millennium Democratic Party was the governing party; why has it been silent for five years and now tries to woo young voters by doubling its opposition's pledge?

Military service is directly related to national security and should not be a matter of political bargaining.

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