Exemptions from military service to be cut by 2023

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Exemptions from military service to be cut by 2023

Individuals with special expertise in an industry or academia, including students of natural sciences and engineering, will no longer be exempt from mandatory military service by 2023, the Ministry of National Defense said Tuesday.

The ministry said that it expects that there will be a decrease in able-bodied Korean men to serve in the military starting from 2020, and by 2023 there is expected to be a shortage of 20,000 to 30,000 soldiers.

“Due to the decreasing population, starting from 2020, there is expected to be a rapid decline in the military manpower, which is why we decided to abolish the military service exemption measure,” said a Defense Ministry official.

Under the current exemption measure, individuals who are eligible to be drafted for two-year compulsory military service can instead serve out their term as a conscripted police officer, firefighter, in the coast guard or in another relevant agency, company or research institute.

There are around 28,000 young men annually who receive exemption through this special measure, according to the ministry.

Graduate students in natural sciences or engineering at top schools are in especially high demand at research institutes and small- and medium-sized companies and start-ups.

The ministry will begin to phase out the number of exemptions starting in 2020, and will complete the process within three years. However, this could result in some backlash as it will impact the police, agencies and research institutes that are currently being supported by this measure.

The Defense Ministry has made similar proposals since 2000 but was not able to carry out these plans because of opposition from related agencies.

It is expected that there will be resistance from the agencies and companies that hired these individuals. Students pursuing doctorates in natural sciences or engineering likewise will have their research disrupted.

The ministry said it is in discussion with related agencies regarding its plan.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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