Korean Army also needs a new strategy

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Korean Army also needs a new strategy

The United States announced a new defense strategy. It suggests the changes in the win-win strategy of fighting two wars at the same time and curtailing ground forces while shifting the focus to the navy and air forces. Even if the U.S. forces reduce to pre-September 11 levels, there won’t be short and mid-term changes as Washington continues to emphasize the strategic importance of the East Asia and Pacific region.

Nevertheless, we need to remember that Washington comes up with new strategies according to changes in circumstances. What we also need to consider here is that when the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command dissolves in December 2015, Korea will pick up the wartime operational control. If the Lee Myung-bak administration hadn’t postponed the timing for the transfer of wartime operational control set during the Roh Moo-hyun administration by three and half years, the impact of the new defense strategy of the United States could have been serious. But from now on, Seoul needs to thoroughly prepare. How to do this?

First of all, we need to compare the readiness of the ROK forces with that of the North Korean forces. The North Korean soldiers have been manipulated by fabricated history and harbor hostility against the Korea-U.S. alliance. They also show complete loyalty and support for the legacy of the Kim family’s leadership. Moreover, North Korea is using various cyber attacks to disarm and provoke South Korean forces and its society. Countering these attempts, the ROK forces need to implement an innovative strategy to enhance the morale and mental readiness of the military.

The tangible assets of the ground forces are not sufficient to carry out modern network-oriented battles and prompt operations after the transfer of the wartime operational control. While the United States would provide assistance in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, ROK forces need to carry out ground operations, which require drastic improvement in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capacity.

About half of the weapons systems possessed by the infantry divisions are considerably old, and the 21-month service term has resulted in low skill and professional know-how among the soldiers. Also, the low fertility rate will ultimately reduce the size of the armed forces, and therefore, the government needs to reform the military structure.

With the transfer of the wartime operation command three and half years away, the ROK Army should propose a new strategy on how to effectively fight ground battles. As the Korean Peninsula and the entire Northeast Asian region go through the transitional period of regimes and history, the uncertainty and liquidity of security grow further. By ruminating over the lesson of the 100,000 men army reserve by Yulgok, ROK forces need to prepare new strategy and war readiness plans to guarantee solid defense.

Han Yong-sup, vice president of Korea National Defense University

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