Military service term will be cutStarting in July 2014, Korean men will be drafted to serve only 18 months in the military, lawmakers confirmed after deciding to keep the current system of gradually shortening the mandatory term.
The National Assembly’s defense committee on Wednesday accepted its subcommittee’s decision to vote down a Grand National Party-backed plan to lengthen the mandatory service terms of Korean active-duty Army soldiers from 21 months and 10 days to 22 months.
In 2007, the Roh Moo-hyun administration began to gradually shorten the mandatory service from the original term of 24 months.
To prepare for the new term reduction, Defense Minister Kim Tae-young said the military will seek ways to strengthen its combat capabilities while reducing its number of troops.
He said he is considering extending the basic training period, introducing scientific methods for alert systems and alleviating human resource management by consolidating manned military posts.
“If the service term for active-duty enlisted troops is reduced to 18 months, the number of applicants for the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps could go down,” Kim said.
“To address this issue, we are looking into ways to best deploy officers and enlisted troops as well as recruiting more women so that our military strength won’t be weakened,” he added.
At the committee meeting, some lawmakers asked Kim to urge the cabinet and president to readjust the current system, recommending that soldiers serve 22 months.
“A change to 22 months would mean an extension,” Kim said. “That will bring about social confusion and a political burden. “
He said he would discuss the situation with President Lee Myung-bak and military officials would conduct a review of all possible measures to shore up Korea’s military capabilities.
Meanwhile, Korea is planning to install an unmanned electronic border security system, which it will test by the end of this year, a defense official who declined to be named said yesterday.
The official said the plan aims to develop high-tech defense devices as the number of troops are downsized by 2020. With the term reduction, Korea expects its active-duty troops to shrink from 690,000 to 517,000 under a national project called Defense Reform 2020.
Some 20 unmanned electronic guard posts are slated to be established in the eastern areas of the inter-Korean border, as well as along the east coastal border.
The official said those unmanned posts will be equipped with remote-controlled machine guns and high-performance closed circuit surveillance cameras that can spot suspicious objects several kilometers away.
The electronic surveillance systems will be set up in other parts of the border once they are proven effective on the eastern front, according to the official.
The plan is largely focused on building slimmer yet more mobile and powerful ground forces.
By Lee Min-yong, Kim Min-seok [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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