Type: Response Essays
Sample donated: Madeline Beck
Last updated: September 23, 2019
For the past few years, the South Korean Ministry of National Defense has been implementing its Defense Reform Plan 2020 that aims to create armed forces of reduced size but higher quality. The army is securing more modern unmanned aviation vehicles, main battle tanks, armored personnel carriers and artillery systems so that it can transform itself into a modernized mechanized force. The navy is building a structure suitable for three-dimensional operations on the surface, underwater and in the air that can move beyond coastal defense to uphold South Korea’s global maritime interests. The air force is developing a structure suitable for air superiority and precision strike and maintaining a high-level combat readiness posture for immediate response, such as retaliatory strikes against North Korean provocations during peacetime. Meanwhile, South Korea’s military reserves are being reduced in size and restructured into a better-trained force of 500,000 by 2020. The Defense Ministry aims to increase the ratio of officers in the force and introduce a paid volunteer system to reinforce professionalism compared to the current universal conscription policy. Exploding costs and the country’s economic problems have delayed progress but the upgrading continues. If nothing else, the decreasing number of available youth for conscription and the imperative of maintaining interoperability with the U.
S. military will sustain some modernization. In its most recent Defense White Paper in 2012, the Defense Ministry also pledged to contribute to global security outside of the Korean Peninsula. The South Korean armed forces have been increasing their capacity to conduct extra-peninsula missions. Meanwhile, the South Korean air force and navy are receiving enhanced long-range surveillance and strike systems, including some AWACS planes and UAVs as well as KDX Aegis-equipped destroyers, Dokdo-class amphibious warships and longer-range Type 214 attack submarines. Operationally, the South Korean military is increasingly becoming involved in missions outside of its traditional defensive role on the peninsula. As of mid-2014, more than 600 troops were deployed in eight peacekeeping missions around the world, and the South Korean navy has increased its role in counterpiracy missions.
In April 2009, South Korea established a dedicated Cheonghae counterpiracy task force to join the international fleet of warships combating pirates in the Indian Ocean. South Korean forces participate in the multinational counterpiracy Combined Task Force-151 (CTF-151), while South Korea’s navy operates an independent counterpiracy mission in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden.