Defense to get 7 percent larger budget next yearSouth Korea will set aside 43.2 trillion won ($39.3 billion) next year for military spending, 7 percent more than was allocated this year, making it the sharpest hike since 2009.
The budget, passed by the National Assembly in the wee hours of Wednesday, was 40.4 billion won more than what the Defense Ministry had sought, reflecting local anxiety over standing off against a mercurial regime now capable of hitting its strongest ally, the United States.
The largest budget increase, 10.8 percent, was set aside for developing the so-called “three-pillar defense system,” which consists of the Kill Chain, Korean Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) and Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation (KMPR) systems.
Kill Chain is a strike system designed to preemptively target North Korean missile sites when a war is imminent, while KAMD focuses on terminal-phase, low-latitude missile defense and KMPR is designed to attack the North’s leadership in retaliation of a missile threat. A little over 13.5 trillion won will be used next year for the three pillars.
Some 16.7 billion won was allocated to improve the Patriot surface-to-air interceptor batteries, while 400 million won will go towards developing tactical surface-to-surface weapons meant to destroy North Korea’s multiple missile launchers.
Five million won will be spent on developing electromagnetic pulse (EMP) bombs aimed at crippling the North’s power grid.
Pyongyang mentioned the threat earlier this year, prompting the South’s military to internally conclude that Seoul would need to deploy U.S. ship-based interceptors known as RIM-161 Standard Missile 3s, or SM-3s, to complete its low-altitude air and missile defense system and block an EMP attack from the North.
The so-called “decapitation unit,” which officially launched last week on the mission to eliminate the North Korean leadership with state-of-the-art weapons, will also be funded for their training and equipment, including reconnaissance drones, self-destructive drones and fast-speed grenade launchers, among others.
The South Korean Army did not specify the special operations force’s role in detail, but local military officials said soldiers will train for “much wider and more crucial” duties than getting rid of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un in case a war erupts.
Conscript soldiers will be paid nearly double what they are currently receiving for the country’s two-year mandatory military service.
A sergeant will receive 405,700 won monthly, up from 216,000 won, while a corporal will receive 362,000 won per month, up from 195,000 won.
A private first class will have his wage raised from 176,400 won to 331,300 won, and a private’s wage will rise from 163,000 won to 306,100 won.
About 14.8 billion won will go to purchasing medical evacuation helicopters.
BY LEE CHUL-JAE [firstname.lastname@example.org]