SEOUL: The South Korean military will gradually shorten the length of its mandatory military service, local media reported on Friday (Jul 27).
Under the Defense Reform 2.0 plans, submitted to President Moon Jae-in on Friday, the service period for army and marine corps draftees will be reduced from 21 months to 18 months by 2022, the Yonhap news agency reported.
Those serving in the navy will have their service reduced from 23 months to 20 months, while those in the air force will have their term shortened from 24 months to 22 months.
The military also plans to slash the total number of its forces from the current 618,000 active-duty troops to 500,000 by 2022, as well as cut the number of its generals from 436 to 360, the report said.
The reform plans come as South Korea seeks to streamline its military in the face of technological advancements, and demographic changes sparked by a low birth rate.
"Our military has established Defense Reform 2.0. based on the recognition that reform is an order from the people that can no longer be delayed, in light of the transitional security situation that we have never experienced before, and social changes, such as the demographic change and the fourth industrial revolution," said the defence ministry in a press release, as cited by Yonhap.
"It is a set of special measures to realise a strong military and responsible defence that can buttress a peaceful and strong Republic of Korea in the security situation of a transitional period and amid constraints in policy formulation," it added.
Military service is compulsory for all able-bodied South Korean males aged 18 and above, with many young men having to put their studies or careers on hiatus.
“The reduction in military service time will relieve some of the burden of military service on young people, who are experiencing difficulties in areas such as their studies and finding a job,” said the ministry.
“Servicemen entering society earlier will contribute to the effective utilisation of our national human resources.”