Korea to cut troop num­bers to 500,000 by 2022

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Park Jae-hyuk [email protected]­re­atimes.co.kr

Korea will re­duce the num­ber of full-time mil­i­tary per­son­nel by 80,000 over the next two years, as part of at­tempts to al­le­vi­ate the im­pact from the coun­try’s de­clin­ing birthrate and rapidly ag­ing pop­u­la­tion, the fi­nance minister said Wednesday.

Dur­ing a meet­ing of eco­nomic min­is­ters, Deputy Prime Minister and Fi­nance Minister Hong Namki said the gov­ern­ment will cut the num­ber of per­son­nel in the stand­ing armed forces to 500,000 by 2022.

The move is part of the gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts to re­form the mil­i­tary in a way that in­creases re­liance on ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies and to cope with changes in mod­ern war­fare amid a de­creas­ing hu­man re­sources pool for mil­i­tary ser­vice.

To deal with the shrink­ing hu­man re­sources, Hong said the gov­ern­ment is con­sid­er­ing ex­pand­ing con­scrip­tion to nat­u­ral­ized cit­i­zens, who have been able to choose whether or not to join the Korean armed forces.

In ad­di­tion, it will seek to in­crease the por­tion of women serv­ing in the mil­i­tary to 8.8 per­cent of all of­fi­cers by 2022 from the cur­rent 6.2 per­cent. The max­i­mum age limit for join­ing as a non-com­mis­sioned of­fi­cer will go up from 27 to 29.

Un­der the gov­ern­ment’s plan, the num­ber of peo­ple to be drafted into po­lice, mar­itime po­lice and fire de­part­ments will de­crease grad­u­ally. Al­ter­na­tive ser­vice, which al­lows en­gi­neers or en­gi­neer­ing stu­dents to serve at re­search in­sti­tutes or work at re­lated com­pa­nies in­stead of serv­ing in the mil­i­tary, will con­tinue for the time be­ing, con­sid­er­ing the need for qual­i­fied peo­ple at small- and medium-sized en­ter­prises (SMEs) un­der the on­go­ing slug­gish econ­omy.

The mea­sures come as the num­ber of peo­ple able to serve in the mil­i­tary is pro­jected to fall to 225,000 in 2025 and 161,000 in 2038, com­pared with 360,000 in 2016.

Ac­cord­ing to the fi­nance minister, the gov­ern­ment will also re­cal­cu­late the num­ber of teacher train­ing po­si­tions, to cope with the loom­ing short­age of chil­dren at­tend­ing schools. Gyms and li­braries in schools with­out stu­dents will be opened for use by lo­cal res­i­dents.

The eco­nomic min­is­ters’ meet­ing also dis­cussed mea­sures to use hal­lyu, or the Korean wave, in sup­port of mar­ket­ing cam­paigns to help SMEs in­crease ex­ports, given its global pop­u­lar­ity.

Hong said a “Mini KCON” will be held in the Mid­dle East and sev­eral other re­gions where hal­lyu fever has been boom­ing lately.

KCON, an ab­bre­vi­a­tion of K-Con­cert & Con­ven­tion, is an an­nual hal­lyu con­ven­tion held in dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions world­wide.

The minister promised the gov­ern­ment will in­crease its in­vest­ment in man­u­fac­tur­ers of hal­lyu-re­lated prod­ucts and give them pref­er­en­tial treat­ment, so as to boost ties be­tween hal­lyu mar­ket­ing and the man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try.

The gov­ern­ment also plans to help SMEs sell their prod­ucts on global on­line mar­ket­places such as Ama­zon and Shopee, South­east Asia’s lead­ing e-com­merce plat­form.

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