Lacking military precisionThe government has announced a measure to shorten the period of mandatory military service by six months as a part of its plan to reform the military and boost the economy. The measure includes a plan to pay those who remain in the army for one year a salary similar to the amount a college graduate might earn in their first year of work. Alternative service for draftees will be phased out. However, the measure has weaknesses that make it likely the plan will never be properly implemented.
Some parts of the plan need to be taken seriously if we are to improve our society. Koreans start working later and retire earlier than in other advanced countries. To shorten the period of compulsory military service would help address this disadvantage.
Under the military reform act passed by the National Assembly the numbers of soldiers will decrease to 210,000 by 2020.
The government plan also states that the reduction in the period of mandatory military service will be carried out gradually over a period of eight and a half years. In 2011, the number of men who can be drafted will exceed the number of soldiers that the military needs.
Even if the period of mandatory military service is shortened, such a change is unlikely to cause serious problems when it comes to mobilizing soldiers.
However, there are things to remember. The change must not weaken our battlefield capability. Under the current system, soldiers have five weeks of basic training, three to five weeks of special training and another term to get used to military life after being stationed.Even if the military service term were to be shortened to 18 months, the time spent in actual service would be around 15 months.
As high-tech military equipment and technology are developed, the period for education will lengthen. When soldiers are ready to be posted into the field, it will be time for them to be discharged. Thus, the government and the military authorities must reform existing training schemes.
The most important issue is the budget. If soldiers are to be paid hundreds of billions of won will be spent each year. Even if the money exists, it is hard to know how many will want to work as soldiers with a salary of between 10 million ($10,683) and 20 million won per year. More money will be spent to increase police manpower as the riot police are phased out but nobody knows how much money will be needed. It is not surprising that the people turn away from the current administration when it handles crucial issues like this in such a hasty and disorganized manner.