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?
Members of the ship salvage unit of the Navy’s First Fleet run before a maritime rescue drill off the eastern coastal city of Gangneung on Jan. 8, 2018, in this photo provided by the fleet. The drill is meant to help ensure the safe and successful hosting of the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympics and Paralympics. (Yonhap)
A new conscript gives a deep bow toward his parents during a ceremony at a boot camp in the city of Nonsan, 213 kilometers south of Seoul, on Jan. 2, 2018, to mark the camp’s reception of recruits for the first time this year. All able-bodied South Korean males are required to serve almost two years in the military. (Yonhap)
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]
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.
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.
In today’s day and age you have to be careful about every word you say as the ROK Defense Minister recently found out:
Of all the remarks to boost the morale of South Korean soldiers protecting the inter-Korean border, he picks the wrong one.
Making a sexual remark may boost male soldiers’ morale, but Defense Minister Song Young-moo chose the wrong place at the wrong time when he visited the Joint Security Area (JSA) Monday.
Two weeks after a North Korean soldier was shot five times when he dramatically escaped to the South through the JSA in the Panmunjeom truce village, Song visited the scene.
Besides checking out the scene, he met and encouraged South Korean soldiers for managing the incident well.
Song met the soldiers at a lunch in a mess hall, where he arrived late. Being apologetic, he cut short his talk so the soldiers would not have to wait long before eating.
“It’s not fun to listen to someone haranguing on and on before a food table,” Song said. “People say that the shorter speeches and miniskirts are the better, right?”
The soldiers replied with a thunderous “Yes, sir. ” Song finished his speech by saying he had come to the JSA to deliver the public’s praise for them for saving the badly wounded North Korean.
But Song’s “miniskirt” comment made headlines that suggested his choice of words was sexually offensive. [Korea Times]
You can read more at the link, but add that to the list of banned speech that you can’t tell people you like miniskirts.
Officials of South Korea’s peacekeeping troops and South Sudan take a photo on a downtown street in the city of Bor, South Sudan, on Nov. 24, 2017, after the installation of street lamps. Thirty solar-powered light-emitting diode lamps were erected along the street that marks the two countries’ friendship, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, which provided this photo. South Korea’s Hanbit unit has been engaged in U.N. peacekeeping operations in the African nation since 2013. (Yonhap)
Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo (front, R), chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), visits a front-line outpost near the Korean border on Sept. 30, 2017, in this photo from the JCS. Jeong made the visit as South Koreans go on their 10-day Chuseok (harvest moon) holiday. (Yonhap)
I believe this when I see it happen since the ROK has literally vowed to take over operational control from the US military for decades to only keep putting it off:
President Moon Jae-in salutes during the 69th Armed Forces Day parade in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, on Thursday.
He vowed to strengthen the Korea-U.S. alliance while beefing up domestic military capabilities in order for the country to command its own troops in the event of a conflict.
“My administration is pursuing the early takeover of wartime operational control,” he said. “The handover on the basis of our independent defense capabilities will ultimately lead to a remarkable advancement in the fundamentals and abilities of our military. When the South has wartime operation control, the North will fear us more, and the people will trust our armed forces more. With elevated self-esteem, our military will become stronger, and the Republic of Korea will emerge as a security hub in Northeast Asia. I am convinced that our military is equipped with such capabilities. The people and I have confidence in our armed forces.”
Recovery of wartime operational control of the Korean forces from the United States was a presidential pledge of Moon. During the Roh Moo-hyun administration, Seoul and Washington agreed that the transfer would take place in 2012, but the plan was delayed by the succeeding conservative presidents. Moon said he will complete it during his presidency, which ends in May 2022. [Joong Ang Ilbo]
You can read more at the link, but I think this may have a real chance of happening this time since President Trump reportedly wants the same thing. Anyway this whole OPCON issue has historically had little to do with military strategy and more to do with being a reactionary response to Korean nationalism. I had reach way back in the archives, but ROK Heads can read how President Moon’s mentor former President Roh pushed this same issue from this 2005 posting.