South Korean Military to Cut 120,000 Troops By 2022

It appears over the course of the Moon Jae-in presidency the South Korean military will be shrunk considerably:

 

South Korea’s military will reduce the number of troops to half a million by 2022 as part of a new round of defense reforms, the Ministry of National Defense said Friday.

The mandatory service period of rank-and-file soldiers will be shortened to 18 months from the current 21 months, according to the ministry’s report to Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon on its 2018 policies.

South Korea has 620,000 troops, including 483,000 Army service members, compared to North Korea’s 1.1 million armed forces.

The left-leaning Moon Jae-in administration has pushed for the so-called defense reform 2.0 aimed at making the nation’s military smaller but stronger.

It is seeking to expand the employment of civilians for non-combat missions, with more active-duty soldiers assigned to field operations. The number of general-grade officers, currently totaling around 430, will be adjusted. Some expect it to decrease by 70-80.

The ministry plans to complete a master plan for military reform by April for speedy legislative procedures.  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link, but I have to wonder where the saved money from the personnel costs will be going to?

Moon Administration Plans to Decrease Number of ROK Military General Officer By Up to 18%

 

This reduction is likely caused by the bad behavior some ROK generals have been accused of in recent years.  Regardless this is a huge drop in the number of general officers:

The Ministry of National Defense is pushing for a massive reduction in the number of generals as part of a military reform plan, government sources said Sunday.

The ministry is said to be preparing for a plan to gradually lower the quota of generals starting this year, possibly by 70-80, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter. Currently, there are about 430 generals in the South Korean troops.

The Moon Jae-in government pledged to slim down the bloated top brass of the military. The previous Lee Myung-bak government had planned in 2011 to reduce the number of generals by 60, or 15 percent, by 2020. The plan was revised down to 40 under his successor Park Geun-hye.  [Yonhap]

South Korea Is Considering Using F-35B Fighters on Their Amphibious Assault Ships

It seems that if the ROK wants to use their amphibious landing ships to project power from with their F-35B fighters they can find a way to modify the decks of the ships:

South Korea’s military has begun to consider operating F-35B stealth aircraft from its newest amphibious landing ship slated to be deployed in 2020, as part of efforts to strengthen its naval power, sources said Monday.

The authorities have recently discussed whether the second 14,000-ton Dokdo-class vessel can carry the F-35B fighter, a short takeoff and vertical landing variant of the U.S.-made fifth-generation warplane.

“I understand that the military top brass have recently discussed whether they can introduce a small number of F-35B fighters and operate them aboard the new ship that has already been deployed and one to be additionally built,” a military source told Yonhap News Agency, declining to be named.

“As far as I know, the idea is being weighed in light of maximizing the strategic value of the vessel’s capabilities,” he added.

The existing Dokdo ship is seen capable of operating only transport helicopters because its deck is not made of materials that can withstand high temperatures or friction caused by fighter jet operations.

“Considerations will continue about whether we can run F-35Bs by redesigning the decks of the Dokdo and the new ship that is being constructed,” another source said.

In 2014, Seoul decided to purchase 40 F-35A fighters for deployment from 2018 through 2021 at a cost of 7.3 trillion won (US$6.75 billion). The F-35A is the fighter’s air force variant, while the F-35B and F-35C are for marines and aircraft carrier-based operations, respectively.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

ROK Military To Weaponized Drone Unit Next Year

The ROK military is embracing the future of combat by using swarms of cheaply made and weaponized drones to attack enemy targets:

South Korean troops use reconnaissance drones during training in this file photo provided by the Korea Army Academy at Yeong-Cheon. (Yonhap)

South Korea’s Army will create a combat unit of weaponized drones next year to help counter North Korea’s threats, an official said Tuesday.

The Army calls the envisioned defense asset a “dronebot,” a combination of the words “drone” and “robot.”

“The Army plans to set up a special organization to lead the development of dronebots, establish a standard platform and expand the dronebot program by function,” the Army official said, requesting anonymity. “To begin with, we will launch a dronebot combat unit next year and use it as a ‘game changer’ in warfare.”

The team will operate reconnaissance dronebots against such core North Korean targets as nuclear and missile sites. In case of a contingency, swarms of dronebots will be mobilized to launch attacks.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

ROK Army Soldier Dead After Commander Allegedly Walks Platoon Across Live Firing Range

This sounds like a complete amateur hour if the accusation is true:

A Korean soldier stationed in the inter-Korean border county of Cheorwon, in Gangwon Province, died of a mysterious gunshot to his head on Tuesday, the latest in a series of fatal incidents there.

The victim, 22, whose name was not released, was returning to his platoon with about 20 soldiers and their commander after working when the bullet hit him. Who fired the bullet and where it came from are unknown.

The incident occurred about 4:10 p.m. The soldier was taken to hospital but died at 5:20 p.m.

The bullet most likely came from a military shooting range within 400 meters of the incident site, media reports said.

But a netizen who claimed to be a family member of the victim said the commander was responsible for the death. The family member, who was with the victim’s body at the Armed Forces Medical Command in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, said the platoon commander led the solders “right across the shooting range while shooting practice was in progress.”  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link on how the ROK Army has had a series of unusual shooting deaths.

ROK Military Commissaries Continue to Sell Tainted Food Products

Be thankful you don’t have to shop in a ROK military commissary because according to the below article Korean food manufacturers are known for selling tainted food products to ROK military servicemembers:

A dead lizard was found in a can of candy sold at a commissary on a military base, prompting public outrage against lax food safety regulations.

This latest incident comes amid a growing number of complaints filed over the safety of food sold at military camps, according to data made public by a lawmaker.

In a report filed with Rep. Kim Hack-yong of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party by the Ministry of National Defense Welfare Agency, 89 cases of tainted food were reported from January 2013 to early this month. Kim sits on the National Assembly Defense Committee.

The number of reports has increased over the years with 16 cases reported in 2013, 17 in 2014, 21 in 2015 and 22 in 2016.

Besides the dead lizard, hair, chicken feathers, maggots, ticks, pieces of plastic bags, and nuts and bolts were also found in various packaged food products, the report said.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link, but authorities will not even publish the names of the companies that sold the tainted products.  It seems that naming these companies would be enough of a threat to their business to ensure that they increase food safety procedures for products going to ROK military commissaries.

South Korea Fires Hyunmoo-2 Ballistic Missile In Response to North Korean Missile Test

Some how I doubt Kim Jong-un was impressed by this South Korean response to his recent missile test over Japan considering one missile did not even work:

South Korea’s military said Friday it has fired two ballistic missiles in a swift response to North Korea’s latest provocation.

The Army shot the Hyunmoo-2 missiles from an eastern site near the inter-Korean border just six minutes after the North’s missile firing from Pyongyang.

One “accurately hit” a simulated target in the East Sea about 250 kilometers away, a Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) official told reporters in a background briefing.

It’s the same distance between the training area and the Sunan airfield in Pyongyang, where the missile was fired.

The other, however, fell into water “in the initial stage,” he added. Related authorities are analyzing the reason.

A defense ministry official pointed out the South’s response came while the North’s missile was still flying.

He stressed that the military was able to take such a quick measure as it detected signs of the secretive North preparing to fire the missile in advance. Related information was immediately reported to President Moon Jae-in who ordered the missile training.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link.

 

South Korean Navy Looks to Acquire Aegis SM-3 Missile Capability

South Korea is interested in fielding the Aegis SM-3 capability, but it seems to me it would make more sense for them to field a land-based Aegis Ashore that could be installed to provide persistent missile defense in the middle of the country:

Aegis SM-3 firing

Seoul needs to deploy U.S. ship-based missile interceptors known as RIM-161 Standard Missile 3s, or SM-3s, to complete its low-altitude air and missile defense system against North Korea, according to an internal report by South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense that was exclusively acquired by the JoongAng Ilbo Monday.

Drafted in August and handed over by Bareun Party Rep. Kim Young-woo, a member on the parliamentary National Defense Committee, the report acknowledges that South Korea’s current low-altitude defense system, also known as the Korea Air and Missile Defense, or KAMD, is unable to intercept some North Korean missiles if they were to fly across the border.

A local government source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the military wrote the report in order to start policy discussions on how Seoul could deploy the SM-3s, which are said to be able to target any North Korean missile fired from a normal angle, filling in a gap left by the country’s current defense systems, mainly comprising the Patriot and Cheongung interceptors that can target an incoming missile up to 20 kilometers (12 miles) high, and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) missile shield, which covers 40 to 150 kilometers in altitude.

An SM-3 has a range of up to 400 kilometers and can travel as far as 700 kilometers away.

The ministry stressed that the defense system would especially come in handy if North Korea carries out an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack, as it recently threatened.

Under that scenario, the ministry said it was likely North Korea would blast its warhead-triggered EMP about 60 to 80 kilometers above ground, which can effectively be targeted by an SM-3.  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link.

South Korea Forms “Spartan 3000” Brigade to Hunt Kim Jong-un If Ordered

I doubt Kim Jong-un is very concerned about this when he knows there is almost zero chance the ROK President is willing to execute such a preemptive strike.  This report seems more for domestic consumption to show the ROK public the government is “doing something”:

South Korea’s defense minister is publicly boasting that it will create a new “decapitation unit” called the Spartan 3000 with the express intent of taking out North Korean leadership, The New York Times reports.

The brigade-sized unit of between 2,000 and 4,000 soldiers will be established by year’s end, The Times reported the defense minister, Song Young-moo, as saying, adding that the military was already “retooling” helicopters and transporting planes to be able to penetrate North Korean airspace at night.

It’s out of the ordinary for a senior government leader to publicly say they are working on a plan to assassinate a foreign head of state. But there’s an interesting reason behind it: The South is trying to freak out its northern neighbor and get it to the negotiating table instead of further developing nuclear weapons.

“The best deterrence we can have, next to having our own nukes, is to make Kim Jong Un fear for his life,” retired South Korean Lt. Gen. Shin Won-sik told The Times.  [Business Insider]

You can read more at the link.

South Korean Navy Wants to Build A Nuclear Powered Submarine

The ROK Navy thinks a nuclear powered submarine is a way to counter North Korea’s nuclear threat:

South Korea has started a feasibility review for the building of a nuclear-powered submarine amid North Korea’s evolving nuclear and missile threats, government sources said Sunday.

The Navy has commissioned a private institute to find ways to resolve international restrictions in building a nuclear submarine with the results to come out as early as the end of this year, sources said.

The government and the military are likely to finalize whether to construct a nuclear-powered sub based on the study.

The move comes as North Korea has been advancing its nuclear and missile capability by firing two intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.