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South Korea

THE MILITARY'S ROLE IN SOCIETY

As the 1990s began, the armed forces remained the largest and most influential government organization in South Korea. Over 75 percent of South Korean males over the age of twenty had served in the regular army, the reserves, or the Homeland Reserve Force, or had been assigned duties supporting the armed forces under the Conscription Law of 1949. The National Technicians Law gave the Ministry of National Defense the authority to order civilian industrial plants to produce military items and to draft technicians with special skills into military service during wartime. The Act Concerning Protection of Military Secrets limited the freedom of the press to report on military affairs. The Military Installation Protection Law restricted civilian access to areas around military installations.

The Defense White Paper, 1988, a report on the armed forces and military preparedness and the first comprehensive document ever prepared by the Ministry of National Defense for the public, noted several initiatives the Roh administration had undertaken to address these concerns. During both the Park and Chun administrations, students who frequently demonstrated against the government had been expelled from school and drafted into the army, where they were treated harshly unless they demonstrated a willingness to accept government doctrine on opposing communism, promoting the common good of society, and showing respect for military and political power figures. In the Defense White Paper, 1988, the Roh administration announced that new conscription policies had been formulated that would standardize selection procedures and end past abuses. Officers and noncommissioned officers (NCOs) were under orders to follow a new military protocol that respected the rights of soldiers as citizens. Another measure announced in 1988 was the abolition of the Student Defense Corps, a military training organization established at South Korean colleges in 1969 to provide mandatory lectures on the government's national security policies and mobilization plans and instruction in handling weapons and military tactics.

Changes in the living and working environment on military bases were to include the gradual elimination of barracks and office buildings constructed in the 1950s, expansion of education programs to prepare soldiers for selected jobs in the civilian sector before their discharge, and small increases in pay. Additionally, in order to alleviate civil-military discord, the Roh administration planned to relocate many of the bases in urban areas to suburban or rural areas as soon as possible. Urban growth around military installations in large cities, including Seoul, Pusan, Taejon, Inch'on, Ch'unch'on, Masan, Wonju, Uijongbu, and Chinhae, had compromised the security of these bases and day-to-day military activities; in turn, the bases themselves had disturbed the normal commercial and social activities of civilians.

In the 1980s, in addition to their regular military duties, military units continued the traditional practice of aiding farmers in planting and harvesting rice, assisting civil authorities in preventing loss of life and property during and following natural disasters, delivering medical services in rural areas, and providing other social services. In 1987 a total of 561,000 military personnel helped local farmers plant their rice, and 392,000 military personnel were made available for harvesting the crop. The army and the Homeland Reserve Force--more than 1 million troops--were mobilized in July 1987 to perform rescue operations and repair wind and flood damage caused by a typhoon. Stranded civilians were evacuated to safety, temporary dikes were constructed to prevent flood damage, debris was cleared from roads, and temporary shelters were constructed for the homeless.

Government policies on emergency preparedness were designed to quickly mobilize civilian personnel and resources to support the military during wartime. The Military Manpower Law delegated responsibility to the Office of Military Manpower Administration of the Ministry of National Defense for maintaining computerized records on all civilians who were eligible to serve in the Homeland Reserve Force. Men and women between the ages of twenty and sixty who had not been assigned duties in the military reserves but had technical skills needed by the military could also be assigned to support the military during wartime or a national emergency declared by the president and approved by the National Assembly under Article 77 of the 1987 Constitution. As the 1990s began, an estimated 5 million men and women were available for wartime duties in the Homeland Reserve Force and designated civilian industries that would produce, repair, and deliver defense goods to the military in wartime. Another important element of emergency preparedness was a plan to mobilize civilian ships, aircraft, heavy construction equipment, and other types of vehicles and equipment useful to the military in wartime.

Under provisions of the Emergency Prepared Resources Management Law, provincial and local government authorities were responsible for registering civilian assets that were to be included in the plan. Periodic exercises of the plan were conducted to test mobilization procedures. Local governments were required to provide the Ministry of National Defense and other appropriate ministries, including the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Transportation, with their mobilization plans.

Data as of June 1990


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