The main opposition party on Wednesday rolled out a set of pledges aimed at improving the livelihoods of soldiers here, including raising their night and weekend shift payments.
The pledges were announced by Democratic Party of Korea Chair Lee Jae-myung during his visit to the Second Marine Division in Gimpo, Gyeonggi Province, in the morning.
The party plans to help the Ministry of Defense raise the weekday late shift pay for soldiers from the current 10,000 won ($7.50) to 30,000 won per shift. Soldiers typically spend 14 hours on a night shift, which usually lasts from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. the next day, according to data provided by a civic group last year.
On weekends, a soldier currently receives around 20,000 won for a single shift, which can last up to 24 hours. Lee plans to raise the payment to 60,000 won per shift.
The party also pledged to provide a full medical checkup worth 300,000 won for soldiers and other military officials with 20 years of service or more, once every two years. Monthly rent support for soldiers living outside military bases will be expanded as well, the party added.
On the controversial issue of whether to conscript women in the country's mandatory military service, Democratic Party Rep. Lee Gae-ho said "they have yet to thoroughly review the matter." Lee, who is the Democratic Party's top policy maker and accompanied Lee Jae-myung on Wednesday's trip, added that the party plans "to review the matter if deemed necessary."
The pledges come amid the Defense Ministry's efforts to improve working conditions for soldiers in a bid to attract more applicants who wish to pursue careers in the military. Last year, the ministry announced its plans to raise weekend and weekday night shift pay, but its progress in raising them was lackluster.
"I believe special rewards should be provided for those who make the special sacrifice (to maintain peace) for the community," Lee Jae-myung told a group of soldiers.