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Defense policy: Reinforcing the defense system

Defense Policy: Reinforcing the Defense System

Early Phase of National Defense in Korea
 
1. Historical Background and the State of National Defense Posture
 
(1) Historical Background
The early phase of national defense in Korea, that is, when the concept gained an established and systematic form, lasted for about a quarter century between 1948 and 1972. It was during this phase that the institutional and systemic grounds for national defense began to be developed. The period also roughly encompasses the rise and fall of the first three Republics in Korea, the outbreak of the Korean War (which lasted for three years between 1950 and 1953), and the deployment of Korean troops to the Vietnam War in the 1960s.


The end of World War II accompanied the onset of the Cold War, which divided the world between the communist and liberal-democratic camps, each centered on the Soviet Union and the United States, respectively. In Northeast Asia, the rivalry pitted the Northern Triangle (i.e., the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea) against the Southern Triangle (i.e., South Korea, the United States, and Japan).


The United States had been actively involved in the affairs of the Korean peninsula—especially in the southern half—from the end of Japan’s colonial rule onwards, setting up the United States Army Military Government (USAMGIK), sending American and UN soldiers to the Korean War, and providing military and economic aid. Through these processes, the United States emerged as South Korea’s largest and most reliable ally, and played the role of patron in the development of all aspects of national defense in Korea, including military buildup, defense management, military training, and others. Beginning from the release of the Nixon Doctrine in 1969, however, the number of US troops stationed in Korea has continued to drop.


South Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world in the immediate aftermath of the Korean War, but began to join the ranks of middle-income developing countries circa the 1970s. During this early phase of national defense development, progress toward democracy began to be made, slowly but unmistakably, through such political vicissitudes as the years of the First Republic under President Rhee Syngman, the April 19 Revolution, the rise and abrupt fall of the Second Republic under Prime Minister Jang Myeon, and the military coup d’état and rise of a military government under President Park Chunghee that led to the Third Republic. After a brief spell of political stability in the Third Republic, however, Korean politics became embroiled in another round of turmoil amid controversies over constitutional amendments made to prolong President Park’s strongman rule. Rapid social change and explosive population growth began after the Korean War, with the spread of public education and the media adding to the zeal for social development. The economic development plan of the Third Republic also bred fast economic development and urbanization.


The archenemy of South Korea during this period was undoubtedly North Korea, commonly referred to at that time as the “North Korean puppet regime”—a puppet, that is, of the Soviet Union. The Korean peninsula was divided into two shortly after Korea’s liberation from Japan. The Korean War broke out with North Korea’s invasion of the South on June 25, 1950, and lasted until the ceasefire and armistice agreement on July 17, 1953. Countless lives were lost during the war and immeasurable damage incurred. North Korea continued to dispatch spies into South Korea, and the tension between the two Koreas escalated to a new height when armed communist guerillas attempted to attack the Blue House in 1968.


The Ministry of National Defense (MND) enacted the Act on the Organization of the National Armed Forces (AONAF) in 1948, immediately after the Korean government was set up, and solidified the basis for the national defense policy by enacting the Military Service Act (MSA) and other such statutes. The Military Personnel Act (MPA) of 1962 and the Homeland Reserve Forces Act (HRFA) of 1968 further strengthened the institutional basis for national defense, along with the burgeoning military academies.
 
(2) National Defense Posture
The South Korean army was badly equipped to carry out the Korean War on its own throughout the war’s entire duration. North Koreans invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950, with the aim of reuniting the two Koreas through the violent communization of the South. American and UN troops began to arrive on June 30 to fight on behalf of South Korea and drive North Korea beyond the 38th Parallel. The two countries have been in a state of ceasefire since 1953.


At the time of the war, the South Korean military was neither comparable in size to its northern counterpart, nor did it possess the same level of competence.[1] It lagged behind its rival in terms of both troop capability and weapons systems, and had to rely on the United States and the United Nations for contributions. Despite the “northward unification policy” championed by politicians in the aftermath of the Korean War, South Korea struggled for years to reinforce its military to a substantial extent. North Korea, on the other hand, set on a course of ambitious military buildup in 1962, spending as much as 24 percent of its gross national product (GNP) on military spending, and 48 percent of its military budget on reinforcing combat capacity.
By late 1971, however, the South Korean military began to surpass its rival, at least on the surface, with 623,316 troops to the North’s 467,700 troops. Nevertheless, North Korea continued to make significant progress in its efforts to build up its Air Force.[2]


North Korea continued to issue threats against the South and build up its military even after signing the Armistice Agreement. The North dispatched spies regularly to incite fear in South Korean society, and even attempted to attack the Blue House with a special unit of armed communist guerillas on January 21, 1968; it also infiltrated Samcheok with armed guerillas in November 1968. These acts of aggression clearly revealed the North’s ambition to reunite the Korean peninsula by communizing the South.


In the meantime, South Korea continued its military training after the Korean War ended. The Foal Eagle (FE) Exercise, in particular, has been organized every October since 1961 to train members of nonconventional war units.


South Korea began to dispatch noncombat troops to the Vietnam War in 1964, and combat troops in 1965, including medics, the taekwondo instructor group, the Maengho Unit, the Cheongnyong Unit, the Baekma Unit, and the Shipjaseong Unit. A total of 46,170 Korean troops were deployed to Vietnam until the end of 1971, and were withdrawn in 1972.

 
[1]During this period, South Korea possessed 105,752 troops to North Korea’s 198,350. South Korea’s arsenal included 1,048 cannons, 28 naval ships, and 22 aircraft to North Korea’s 2,280 cannons, 30 naval ships, 210 aircraft, 242 tanks, and 54 armored vehicles.
[2]By the end of 1971, South Korea had 548,258 ground troops, 18,892 naval troops, 29,602 marines, and 26,564 air troops to North Korea’s409,100 ground troops, 13,585 naval troops, and 45,000 air troops. There were 2,336,032 South Korean local reservists to the North’s 1,420,000. The main South Korean arsenal included 784 tanks, 1,850 field artillery guns, 322 naval ships, and 354 fighters to North Korea’s737 tanks, 2,725 artillery field guns, 293 naval ships, and 727 fighters (MND, History of National Defense (May 1961 to December 1971), 1990, 384-385).


Source: Korea Institute of Public Administration. 2008. Korean Public Administration, 1948-2008, Edited by Korea Institute of Public Administration. Pajubookcity: Bobmunsa.
 

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2. Main Features and Tactics of the Defense Policy and its Management
 
(1) Military Strategy
 
1) Military structure and the defense organization
The enactment of the AONAF on November 30, 1948, provided the MND with a definite internal structure and shape. It defined a chain of command extending from the President and the Minister of National Defense to the Chief of the General Staff (CGS). Below the CGS were placed the MND’s internal bureaus and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), as well as the chiefs of the Naval and Army Headquarters. Assisting the President were the National Defense Resource Management Committee, the Supreme Defense Council, and the House of Military Councilors (Na, 1977, 214-215). The Republic of Korea Air Force came into being on October 1, 1949.


Two major changes took place in the command structure during the Korean War (Han, 1982, 30). The first occurred in 1950, after the outbreak of the war, when South Korea switched to the system of the Chief of the Integrated Staff. The second occurred when operational command over South Korean forces was transferred to the UN Command, giving the Minister of National Defense only administrative control over the forces.


After the Korean War, the South Korean national defense system began to develop in a more formal manner. The JCS came into being as a military assistant to the Minister of National Defense in August 1953, and was given its own headquarters the following March. The Constitution of the Third Republic also led to the creation of the National Security Council (NSC) on January 8, 1964.
A conceptual change also occurred in the system of operating the combined Korean-US troops when the UN’s operational command over the Korean troops formally changed to operational control on October 7, 1954 (Army Headquarters, 1968, 58). By October 9, 1959, the headquarters of each force in the Korean military were no longer under the operational control of the UN Command and the Eighth US Army, leaving only the operational units under the UN Command’s operational control.
 
2) Military buildup
Between the end of the Korean War and 1965, the Korean military shared basically the same defense policy with the US Forces to Korea (USFK), and relied heavily on American grants-in-aid to build itself up. Koreans scarcely felt the need to develop their own mid to long-term military plans.
The process of military buildup in Korea between 1965 and 1971 depended exclusively on financial aid from Washington, especially in the form of equipment exchanged on the basis of the Ambassador Brown Memorandum.[1] The early phase of military buildup in Korea therefore saw American grants-in-aid crucially modernizing the entire Korean military (Lee, 2007, 279).
In response to the attempted attack on the Blue House in 1968, President Park set up the National Defense and Science Institute in 1970 to foster research and development of national defense policies and issues. In April 1970, the institute released a plan for fostering Korea’s own defense industry that made maximum use of available private sector resources.
 
(2) Military Service and Mobilization
 
1) Military service
In an effort to address the military vacuum that was created during the period before the MSA went into effect, the new government of South Korea, established in 1948, proclaimed the Provisional Measures on Defense Service.[2] The MSA finally came into being in 1949, having its basis in the universal conscription system. The Enforcement Ordinance for the MSA was announced in 1950. The MSA provided for mandatory military service, voluntary female forces, service status classifications, and service conditions, and provided details on conscription dates, methods and examinations. The outbreak of the Korean War, however, made it impossible to implement the MSA as intended. The MSA was amended in 1957, and the National Guard was introduced in 1969.
The duration of military service for each draftee was two years in 1950, but was extended to three years in 1953 due to the shortage of troops and other resources. The surplus of human resources in the military, however, led to reductions in the duration by three months each in 1959 and 1962, before the original three years was reinforced in 1968 in response to the attempted attack on the Blue House.


Military administration fell under the purview of the MND in the early days of the Korean government. In 1962, the MND set up military manpower administrations in various cities and provinces, dispatching military administration agents to smaller districts to handle conscription and related matters. The MND gained the central Military Manpower Administration (MMA) in 1970.
 
2) Mobilization
The sudden outbreak of the Korean War left South Korea struggling to mobilize its limited human and other resources for defense. The South Korean military began to draft workers in addition to its existing draftees and volunteers for the purpose of battle, and relied on overseas allies for material resources and war production.


The 30th and 31stdivisions began to organize military exercises in 1956 with memories of the Korean War still clearly in mind. In 1963, the 31st Division began to employ new resource mobilization strategies and techniques, with the 35th and 37threservist divisions doing the same in 1964.


The Army was the first to develop a mobilization plan, in 1958, drawing a rough outline of the military resources to be mobilized and the approximately one million troops to be maintained. The plan included details on the soldiers eligible for mobilization (i.e., men who had completed their military service less than three years before mobilization), and on the period of mobilization (i.e., 15 days). As the plan was geared more toward individual instances of mobilization, it was not comprehensive in nature. Though limited efforts began to be made to improve the mobilization system in 1961, it was not until 1965 when the Korea-U.S. Combined Reservist Mobilization Research Committee produced a comprehensive plan for improvement[3] that groundbreaking changes were instituted.


The Homeland Reserve Forces Act (HRFA) was enacted amid a firestorm of controversy on April 1, 1968, and led to the creation of local reserve forces. The HRFA was divided between Gapho units—comprised of elite soldiers aged 30 or under—and general reserve forces (now known as the Homeland Defense Reserve Forces). The Emergency Planning Committee was created in 1969 to handle mobilization tasks of an increasingly complex, long-term and wide-ranging nature. The mobilization target age was lowered from 40 to 35 in 1970, and the process and targets of mobilization were also made more specific, now being comprised of three stages. The hour system was introduced in an effort to facilitate and shorten the mobilization process. In 1972, mobilization resources were divided into different types for use by specific units and corps. The military also began to work with other administrative organizations in carrying out resource mobilization.
 
(3) Military Administration
 
1) Military and administrative personnel
In its early years, the South Korean military relied almost exclusively on grants and aid from Washington and the USFK, with the required amount decided according to the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). The USFK decided single-handedly matters involving the sizes and types of troops needed, while the South Korean military focused singularly on the administration and management of human resources.


Military personnel at the time consisted mainly of ground forces and draftees. The universal conscription system allowed the Korean military to secure relatively competent and capable soldiers. Overall personnel administration was carried out according to need. The MND’s Personnel Bureau oversaw the management of men in service, while its Conscription Bureau handled other military affairs.


The modern military officer system began in 1946 with the first round of Military Academy graduates. The enactment of the AONAF in 1948 systematized military personnel management. The outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 led to the announcement of the General Officers Decree, according to which a large number of soldiers were appointed as military officers. The MPA of 1962 further strengthened the basis for personnel management and solidified the military career system.


A major problem in the late 1950s was the question of how to take care of almost 120,000 military officers who were being discharged from the military and who lacked any social security guarantees. In 1965, Korean troops began to be deployed overseas, starting with the Bidulgi Unit. The consequent shortage of officers led to the deployment of recent graduates of short-term military academies to battlefields.
 
2) Defense training
The curriculum for defense training and education evolved and expanded between 1948 and 1972, mainly reflecting the new military training organizations that had been added to the defense structure.


In the earliest years (1945 to 1950), there were military academies for languages, the Korea Guard, the Navy, and the Army (combined with aviation components). Between 1951 and 1960, the General Army Education Command, the Army University, the Navy University, and the Air Force University came into being.


Education and training at the Korea Guard Academy was closely modeled after Japan’s methods. Once the USAMGIK and the First Republic were established, American military advisors began to introduce American models of military training, which mainly included close-order drills, manual exercises, bayonet skills training, and riot control. Curricula for officer education and training were first developed in the 1950s.


During the Korean War, educational and training programs were geared toward producing skilled soldiers in as short a span of time as possible. The Korean military regained control over soldier training from the USFK in 1961 and introduced a shift from wartime to peacetime in the curriculum in an effort to develop new features to replace the large-scale, American-style, short-term training programs of the past.


Recruit education at first was provided for volunteers only. After the Korean War, however, training bases were created to ensure that all recruits were given proper education. Education and training for occupational specialization was introduced in 1960, thus ensuring that soldiers, once discharged from the service, would possess the skills needed for them to join the industrial workforce with ease. No system for the education of commissioned officers existed until around the early 1960s. The General Administration School was founded in 1968, unifying the curricula for administrative personnel.


The officer training system originated with the Military Language School, founded in 1945, which evolved into the Korea Guard Academy and later into the Korea Military Academy (in 1948). The outbreak of the Korean War dramatically increased the demand for lower-ranking officers, compelling the Korean military to revive the Class-A Officer Candidates System and other such measures, as well as resort to battle commissions. The system later came to include the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) founded in 1961, the Air Force ROTC founded in 1971, and two additional military academies.


Shortly after the ceasefire was declared, the Korean military began to provide military occupational specialty (MOS) training[4] as well as long-term service acquisition training for commissioned officers. An officer exchange program began, through which qualified officers were sent to the United States to receive additional training. Various military academies also began to provide programs on command and staff duties (ROK Army Training and Doctrine Command, 1984, 124-138). The Armed Forces Staff College came into being in 1963 as part of efforts to improve the Korean military’s capability for joint operations.


The nationwide educational curriculum changed in 1969 to enhance the military drill component at high schools and provide military training for university students. While these drills did contribute to raising national defense capacity and public security awareness, they are also criticized for increasing authoritarianism and violence in schools (MND, 1993, 17-25).
 
3) Defense budget
Throughout the early phase of national defense in Korea, the defense budget grew dramatically from decade to decade, ranging from KRW 6 million (18.3 percent of the total budget) in 1948, to KRW 149 million (38.1 percent) in 1950, to KRW 10.94 billion (52.2 percent) in 1955, to KRW 15.14 billion (34.0 percent) in 1960, to KRW 29.28 billion (30.9 percent) in 1965, and finally to KRW 100.5 billion (22.0 percent) in 1970 (Finance Bureau, 2005, 221). National defense claimed over a half of the national budget between 1951 and 1957, until its proportion declined to the 22 to 32-percent range between 1961 and 1972.


Until 1956 or so, a vast proportion of the Korean defense budget was spent on handling the process and aftermath of the Korean War, including relief and aid for civilians, with Washington and the USFK shouldering most of  the actual war and military expenses. The Korean government at the time was able to pay only soldiers’ wages, the cost of food rationing, and other general administrative expenses, and it still lacked an organized and thoroughgoing system of budget preparation. It was only after a military government rose to power, through the coup d’état of May 16, 1961, that the Budget Account Act was passed, incorporating defense expenses into the general account. Until the mid-1960s, the Korean military prepared its budget according to the most basic, control-centered method of by-item calculations.


There was not much value in preparing a separate budget for the Korean military until the mid-1960s, as the institution overwhelmingly depended on military grants and aid from Washington. The Korean military only managed to decide the quantities of the necessary items to be purchased or procured, using simple arithmetic according to the number of troops. The concept of budgeting as a key feature of long-term military strategy simply did not occur to decision-makers during this period (Lee, 1986, 12-13).
 
4) Logistics
Until the 1960s, all logistics in the Korean military relied on grants and aid from the United States. Logistics management during this period merely amounted to the simple distribution of military supplies according to requests. These goods were kept track of and managed by the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force by division and by item (MND, 1988, 218-231).
 
(4) Relations with Civilians
President Rhee and his Liberal Part supporters during the First Republic (1948 to 1960) refused the idea of career military service. This led to a certain form of military-civilian relations that led some officers to develop partial and political tendencies. The purge of disloyal elements from the Army, which began in October 1948, hardened the officers’ commitment to anti-communism. At the time the Korean War broke out, President Rhee was seeking to maintain his control over the Army by dividing officers into political and ideological factions. The military, nevertheless, made efforts to maintain its professionalism and political neutrality for the most part, which contributed to fortifying civilians’ trust in the military (Choi, 2007, 28-29).


The Second Republic, helmed by the Democratic Party and lasting for barely a year, failed to exert substantial control over the people and social issues. The frequent turnover in the position of the Minister of National Defense indicated that personnel decisions were being made more on the basis of political considerations than professional ones (Kim, 1988, 120). The government also sought to politicize the military by demanding political contributions from high-ranking military officers, including the Chief of the General Staff (Kim and Kim, 1988, 58-59. Treated as incompetent and corrupt, the Democratic Party’s rule finally came to an end amid the military coup d’état of May 16, 1961.


The Third Republic (1963-1972) arose with the Park Chunghee government after a short period of provisional military rule. It was in the era of the Third Republic that the Korean military elite came to take up the burdens of not only defending the nation against external threats, but also leading national development. President Park opened up new channels of career advancement for military officers by assigning them to key posts in the government. As the nation’s Supreme Commander-in-Chief, President Park also effectively ridded the military of the ability to exert political influence independently. The military also came to play a crucial role in ending illiteracy in Korea as a major advocate of public education.[5] The manpower and equipment owned by the military were also actively employed for the cause of national development. Even while playing indispensable roles in national security and development, however, the military was too frequently mobilized to repress resistance by workers and farmers, thus leading to growing public distrust in the institution (Kim, 1988, 120).

 
[1]The Memorandum, consisting of 14 articles in total, represents Washington’s pledge of support made in exchange for the deployment of Korean troops to the Vietnam War. The terms of support included: (1) aid for equipment modernization in 17 Korean Army divisions and one Korean Navy division; and (2) supply of materials for increased production of ammunition, and others.
[2]The main terms of the Provisional Measures included: (1) limiting Army recruitment to volunteers aged between 17 and 28; (2) dividing the service status between active duty and Reserved Army on Demand; (3) limiting the duration of service to two years; and (4) maintaining active-duty soldiers in military barracks, while allowing Reserved Army on Demand soldiers to commute from home. The Measures also provided the terms and conditions of wages, appointments, etc.
[3] The improvement plan divided the soldiers to be mobilized into those assigned to front or rear divisions, those assigned to combat-assisting units, and those to act as general supplementary soldiers in the case of human loss. The plan also required that men to be drafted be given sufficient advance notice, and that the MMA announce the stations and positions for which additional resources were to be mobilized.
[4]The MOS system refers to a system of training and assigning newly commissioned officers to different sets of military, staff, and special skills.
[5]The military fought illiteracy by launching public education for youth and adults. The courses produced a total of 989,886 graduates in total until 1970 (Hwarang Research Institute, 1992, 212-213).


Source: Korea Institute of Public Administration. 2008. Korean Public Administration, 1948-2008, Edited by Korea Institute of Public Administration. Pajubookcity: Bobmunsa.