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National defense policy: Achieving greater self-sufficiency in national defense

National Defense Policy: Achieving Greater Self-Sufficiency in National Defense
 
Achieving Greater Self-Sufficiency in National Defense
 
1. Historical Background and National Defense Posture
 
(1) Historical Background
Increasing degrees of self-sufficiency were achieved during the 15 years between 1993 and 2008during the three governments of the Sixth Republic: namely, the Kim Youngsam, Kim Daejung, and Roh Moohyun administrations. The year 1993 marks the first time that a politician without any military service record won the presidency through a popular vote. This period also saw the demolition of Hanahoe (“Group of One”), the secret group of military officers, as well as the transfer of peacetime operational control over the Korean forces from the United States to Korea.

This period began with the collapse of the Cold War and the emergence of a new world order ushered in by the United States. China and Russia nonetheless remained as powerful as ever in Northeast Asia, forming two of the four powers—the other two being the United States and Japan—and exerting impact on the state of affairs in the Korean peninsula. North Korea’s nuclear ambitions also manifested as a major regional security threat during this period, leading to the organization of the six-party talks involving delegations from the two Koreas and the United States, Japan, China, and Russia.

The Korea-U.S. alliance was maintained, but not without some changes, beginning with the transfer of peacetime operational control in 1994. The Roh Moohyun government launched a new defense policy that claimed a greater autonomous role for Korea on the basis of the strength of the alliance with the United States. Frictions arose between the two allies, however, especially over the issue of South Korea providing humanitarian aid for North Korea.

The Foreign Exchange Crisis that Korea suffered in the late 1990s briefly led the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to rule the country’s economy and finance, and caused major setbacks in various sectors of society. South Korea nonetheless overcame this struggle to eventually become the 12th-largest economy in the world. Yet new forms of social malaise, including class polarization and the rampant youth unemployment rate, increased the demand for new types of government-sponsored welfare and educational services. The era of local self-administration dawned in Korea in 1992, opening up vital channels of participation for NGOs and watchdog groups. The decreasing size of the population, however, spurred anxiety over the future of troops and the military.
The MND during this period sought to contain North Korea’s threats and the growing uncertainty of the future strategic environment by pursuing competence-based national defense advancement and extending its strategic partnership network to include more countries worldwide. The National Defense Reform Committee (NDRC) came into being on April 15, 1998 and the National Defense Reform Act (NDRA) was enacted in December 2006 to provide institutional impetus and support for military reforms.
 
(2) National Defense Posture
North Korea remained the main threat to the South between 1993 and 2007, but armament rivalries among neighboring countries and the threats of nonmilitary and terrorist attacks worldwide also posed significant security issues. Though the Joint Declaration of June 15, 2000succeeded in increasing exchange and cooperation between the two Koreas, the North Korean regime nevertheless continued in its efforts to maintain military superiority, expanding its conventional warfare capacity and launching programs for developing weapons of mass destruction. The military-first policy has been the centerpiece of the North Korean regime since 1995. A North Korean constitutional amendment in 1998 gave the National Defense Commission authority over the military with former North Korean leader Kim Jongil acting as Supreme Commander-in-Chief (a role now passed to his son, North Korea’s current leader) (MND, 2004, 251).

North Korea’s upper hand in the area of military rivalry has remained unchanged since 1993. The North Korean troops assigned to the 38th Parallel represent a permanent threat to South Korea. As of 1993, South Korean military competence had reached only 60 or 70 percent of its North Korean counterpart.[1] The situation did not change much by 2004, except for the fact that South Korea had come to acquire more advanced weapons and systems.[2] North Korea is nonetheless continuing its development of nuclear weapons,[3] in addition to new firearms as well as mid to long-range missiles. North Korea revealed its military ambitions on June 9, 2002, when it provoked battles on the West Sea.

Nevertheless, efforts continued to be made to encourage more dialogue among the military officials of both countries in order to thaw the tension and build trust, culminating, at one point, in the Meeting of the Ministers of National Defense in 2007. Even while trying to dismantle decades-old animosity and distrust, however, the South Korean military continues to organize independent or combined exercises with the United States, including the Foal Eagle (FE), Ulchi Focus Lenses (UFL), and Reception, Staging, Onward Movement, and Integration (RSOI) exercises.[4]
In addition to these combined exercises, the Korean military also engages in its own, independent ones, including the Hwarang, Taegeuk, and Pilseung exercises. The Taegeuk Exercise, which began in 1996 and is organized every May, is a command post exercise that enhances the ability of the joint chiefs of staff (JCS) to plan wars and execute operations. The Pilseung Exercise, which also began in 1996, is a field training exercise organized by the JCS and controlled by the operation command with the aim of enhancing the capacity of corps to execute given war plans, cooperate with one another, and carry out warfare of a comprehensive scope. It enlists the participation of all the Armed Forces, and anticipates localized attacks as well as all-out wars on the coasts and in inland areas.

The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines also organize their own exercises. The Army’s battle command training program is aimed at improving the operational capacity of its units and corps, while the Navy participates in maritime mobilization training as well as combined exercises with the United States. The Air Force also organizes defense control and aviation blockade exercises.
South Korea’s entry into the United Nations began its involvement in peacekeeping missions around the world. It deployed its first peacekeeping troops to the civil wars in Somalia (1993 to 1994) and Angola (1995 to 1997), and has stationed peacekeeping troops in Western Sahara, Georgia, India, and Pakistan since 1994. Additionally, the Korean military has provided medics as well as naval, air, and ground transportation units and construction engineers for the war in Afghanistan since 2001,honoring the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) signed with the United States. Construction engineers and medics have also been dispatched to Iraq since 2003.
 
 
[1]By the end of 1993, South Korea had 655,000 troops, which is about 60 percent of North Korea’s 1.03 million. South Korean troops included 540,000 for the Army, 60,000 for the Navy, and 55,000 for the Air Force. North Korea, on the other hand, had 900,000 for the Army, 46,000 for the Navy, and 84,000 for the Air Force. South Korean ground forces included 11 corps, 50 divisions, and 21 brigades, to North Korea’s 18 corps, 53 divisions, and 99 brigades. South Korea’s land equipment included 1,950 tanks, 2,100 armored vehicles, and 4,600 field artillery guns, while North Korea possessed 3,800 tanks, 2,500 armored vehicles, and 10,800 field artillery guns. There were 190 combatant ships and two submarines on the South Korean side, while North Korea had 434 combatant ships and 26 submarines. South Korea also had 520 tactical aircraft and 620 helicopters to North Korea’s 850 tactical aircraft and 290 helicopters (MND, 1994, 74).
[2]As of the end of 2006, South Korea had 674,000 (peacetime) troops, which included 541,000 for the Army, 68,000 for the Navy, and 65,000 for the Air Force, as well as 3.04 million reserve forces. North Korea, on the other hand, had 1.17 million (peacetime) troops, which included one million for the Army, 60,000 for the Navy, 110,000 for the Air Force, and 7.7 million reserve forces. The South Korean military was comprised of 12 corps, 50 divisions, and 19 brigades of the Army, and possessed 2,300 tanks, 2,500 armored vehicles, 5,100 field artillery guns, 120 combatant ships, 10 submarines, 500 fighters, and 680 helicopters. Its North Korean counterpart, on the other hand, possessed 19 corps, 75 divisions, and 69 ground force mobilization brigades, and had 3,700 tanks, 2,100 armored vehicles, 8,500 field artillery guns, 420 combatant ships, 60 submarines, 820 fighters, and 310 helicopters (MND, 2006).
[3]North Korea launched the Rodong missile in 1993 and Taepodong-1 in 1998. The regime admitted to its nuclear program in 2002, and has since then faced mounting pressure from the United States and the rest of the international community to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
[4]The RSOI Exercise is comprised of command post exercises that envision the possible movements of U.S. augmentation forces deployed to the Korean peninsula in the case of a war. It features a series of activities from landing via onward movements to integration of U.S. forces, and practices the support, mobilization, and combat capacity restoration aid to be provided by South Korea.
 
Source: Korea Institute of Public Administration. 2008. Korean Public Administration, 1948-2008, Edited by Korea Institute of Public Administration. Pajubookcity: Bobmunsa.