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Defense ministry rules out bringing major changes to conscription

Jan. 27, 2017 - 13:16 By 손지영

South Korea's defense ministry said Friday the pledges made by presidential hopefuls to reduce the mandatory service period in the military and abolishing the conscription system lack viability.

As South Korea is still technically at war with the North, all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 35 must serve in the military for about two years under the existing system.

Moon Jae-in, a potential candidate from the main opposition, has been claiming the service period should be reduced, while Gyeonggi Gov. Nam Kyung-pil, another hopeful, claimed South Korea should shift to a volunteer military system from the current conscription.

The ministry said such claims lack viability considering national security as well as the budget.

Defense Minister Han Min-koo visits an Air Force unit that is in operational control of a Patriot missile system (Yonhap)
"If we reduce the service period by one month, we need 11,000 extra soldiers. If we cut nine months from the current 21-month service period in the Army, we would be short 120,000 soldiers," a ministry official said.

The ministry added the reduction will also have an adverse impact on soldiers' capabilities, as it takes at least 16 months to train soldiers to carry out their duties skillfully.

The ministry also ruled out adopting a volunteer military system instead of conscription.

"If we pay 2 million won ($1,713) monthly to soldiers through a volunteer system, we will need 600 billion won more every month, which adds up to 7.2 trillion won every year," the official said, claiming the amount will increase further considering their accommodations and education. (Yonhap)