Revisiting military incentivesThe Ministry of National Defense will push ahead with a plan to give men who have completed their mandatory military service a boost when they apply for government jobs. The proposed policy is based on the idea that those who complete their military service should receive some compensation. Such a policy existed before, but it was repealed in a 1999 Constitutional Court ruling that said it went against the principle of equality.
In 2008, the National Assembly’s National Defense Committee passed a bill that would give soldiers a bonus of 2.5 percent when they take examinations for government jobs, down from the 3 to 5 percent in the earlier plan. However, the bill is still pending amid fierce opposition from civic groups, including women’s rights organizations.
A presidential committee on the modernization of the military recommended passing the bill last year and the Defense Ministry wanted to push it through the National Assembly in six months.
But the bill is likely to become a political hot potato because of resistance from civic groups that are vehemently opposed to the idea because they say it discriminates against women and the disabled. But things seem to have changed a lot since 1999. Lee Seog-yeon, former Minister of Government Legislation, said at a debate two years ago that the policy would not violate the Constitution if the bonus is about 1 percent, rather than 2.5 percent, adding that the number of women passing state examinations had risen sharply compared to men. Lee was the one who won the 1999 legal battle over the constitutionality of giving advantages to those who served in the military.
But the need to encourage young men to serve in the military has become more urgent than ever. Children of the privileged class often find ways to dodge the draft, but regular people are now following suit.
Furthermore, rapid changes in the nation’s demographics are making it very difficult to maintain the Army’s current size through 2020, even if the current service period is extended from 22 to 24 months.
Undoubtedly, our national security will be weakened. Although advocacy groups contend that the government should find other ways to compensate soldiers for their service, instead of giving them bonus points on civil service exams, it will be difficult to find realistic alternatives. The government to must revisit this issue and settle the controversy for good.