Borderline units to see a shift in tasks
Starting next year, conscripted soldiers stationed at frontline units will no longer be obligated to perform non-military duties, such as weeding or cleaning their barracks, but will instead focus on border patrol duties and combat readiness.
On Wednesday, the National Assembly’s Defense Committee passed a 30.5 billion won ($27.7 million) budget plan to employ civilian workers to carry out unrelated daily tasks starting from 2015.
It is hoped that the shift in responsibilities will improve living conditions and relieve the workload for the conscripted. The Ministry of National Defense had initially earmarked 7.5 billion won to put toward hiring private sector workers for just two South Korean Army infantry divisions facing the North Korean Army, though lawmakers on the defense committee later agreed to increase the budget to expand the program to all frontline units.
Soldiers in those units are often mobilized to cut the grass in the summer and shovel snow in the winter. They also engage in other activities unrelated to enhancing combat capabilities. If the National Assembly passes the budget proposal, each frontline battalion will have five civilian workers to perform maintenance.
The Defense Committee also earmarked 78.9 billion won in next year’s budget aimed exclusively at improving living conditions for enlisted soldiers serving in frontline units.
Calls to improve living conditions for conscripts near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) have grown louder in recent months following a series of abuse cases at borderline units.
BY KANG JIN-KYU [email@example.com]