Compensation is our duty
A committee of private citizens, government officials and military officers tasked with reforming the military culture approved a plan to give incentives to conscripts who successfully complete their military duty. A similar system in which conscripts would be given points when they apply for jobs at the government or at state-run companies was ruled unconstitutional in the past, so the latest plan sparked controversy. The committee said its plan has made up for the shortcomings that were pointed out by the Constitutional Court. The new plan will reduce the incentives, and a conscript will only be able to use them five times in a career. But there are still contradicting views on the issue.
The reform committee was launched on Aug. 6 after the shooting spree at the 22nd Infantry Division and the shocking death that resulted from a brutal beating of a young conscript in the 28th Infantry Division. After four months of deliberation, the committee announced its plan on Dec. 18. Twenty-two tasks were announced under different five themes and many projects were assigned to those tasks. Most of them can be implemented immediately as long as the military makes up its mind to do so, but there are many projects that require funding and revisions to relevant laws. Others require a social consensus.
The incentive system is one of them.
Since 1961, people who have completed their military duty were given 5 percent of total marks in the tests to become a public servant or to work at a state-run company. The system was ruled unconstitutional in 1999. The Constitutional Court ruled that the system’s intentions were legitimate. And yet, the incentive was too much, and the court said a conscript could benefit from that incentive an unlimited number of times over his career. The reform committee, therefore, created a plan in which a conscript would receive only a 2 percent incentive on the test and would be able to use it only five times. The plan also said that up to 10 percent of the quota for new employees could be applied using the military incentive.
A public opinion poll showed support for the system. A 2011 survey by Gallup Korea said 79.4 percent of the people supported it. Another poll by Research and Research in 2013 showed that 83.5 percent of the people supported it.
But there is still considerable opposition, which calls such a system discriminatory. But why do they think it is not discriminatory for the country to enforce military duty only on men? Why do they oppose the country compensating young men for having served in the military?
Some said the incentives would be discriminatory against people who are physically handicapped, but they receive their own benefits when entering college or applying for jobs.
Women are also enjoying various benefits, starting from the quota in proportional representatives in the National Assembly to the policy of encourage more women to join the Army. If women want to earn the incentive points, they can serve in the military in various ways. Women can choose whether they can participate in military duty. Men cannot.
The incentive system is also related to creating a healthy culture in the barracks. The system was planned to reduce violence in the military because only those who faithfully and successfully serve can receive the points. In the past, anyone who served in the military could earn points. But under the plan, soldiers who are punished for using violence or those charged with sexual crimes cannot earn points.
Conscripts who want to benefit from the incentives when they apply for jobs must respect the regulations, so the plan can reduce violence in the barracks.
Some challenge the plan because it can only help those planning to serve in the government, but the reform plan has more complex intentions. It does not aim to bring about a single effect. It actually seeks to create many small changes that will eventually improve the military culture.
Serving in the military is a promise to sacrifice one’s life if war breaks out. The incentive system is the least we can do for the young men who make such a promise, and this will help our beloved sons serve in the military safely.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
*The author is president of the Korea Defense Network.
by Shin In-kyun