As of 1988, South Korea possessed 650,000 troops (550,000 for the Army, 60,000 for the Navy, and 40,000 for the Air Force) to North Korea’s 870,000 (760,000 for the Army, 40,000 for the Navy, and 70,000 for the Air Force). South Korea had 10 corps, 48 divisions, and 15 brigades ready for mobilization, whereas North Korea had 15 corps, 55 divisions, and 61 brigades. The South Korean military’s ground equipment included 1,500 tanks, 1,550 armored vehicles, and 7,800 field artillery guns, while North Korea had 3,500 tanks, 1,960 armored vehicles, and 7,800 field artillery guns. South Korea’s marine equipment included 300 naval ships, paling in comparison to North Korea’s 630. South Korea also had only 480 tactical aircraft, barely one-half of North Korea’s 820 (MND, 1988, 146-152).
Korea Institute of Public Administration. 2008. Korean Public Administration, 1948-2008, Edited by Korea Institute of Public Administration. Pajubookcity: Bobmunsa.
2. Main Features and Tactics of the Defense Policy and its Management
(1) Military Strategy
1) Military structure and defense organization
Various internal and external factors began to promote the pursuit of greater self-sufficiency in national defense. This movement was particularly prevalent after the Korean troops deployed to Vietnam finally returned after seven years in service. While the structure of issuing and executing military orders remained more or less the same, the establishment of the Combined Forces Command (CFC) in Korea on November 7, 1978, marked the transfer of operational control over the Korean forces from the United Nations Command to the CFC. With this change, the Korean military stood on more equal footing with its American counterpart and gained greater knowledge of how to exercise and execute orders; the change also reflected the growing international recognition of Korea as an autonomous state (Jang, 1998, 70). The chiefs of each force, however, were still only able to exercise administrative control, as all the operational units belonged to the CFC and as such were subject to the strategic instructions and operational control and commands of the CFC. Thus a cooperative atmosphere was enforced.
2) Military buildup
The period between 1971 and 1975 marks the progress of the Five-Year Plan for the Modernization of the Korean Military. During this period, decision-makers sought to “Koreanize” national defense, investing 30 percent of the defense budget in reinforcing combat capacity in 1968. South Korea was able to achieve 90-percent defense budget self-sufficiency by the mid-1970s (Lee, 2007, 286). The Five-Year Plan successfully localized the production of military equipment. By investing the USD 42 million it received from Washington in military aid in 1972, the Korean military was able to complete the construction of M-16 rifle factories. This marked the start of the local defense industry, crucial to the nation’s self-defense.
The Yulgok Project
lasted from 1974 to 1992. The three phases of the project (1974 to 1981, 1982 to 1986, and 1987 to 1992) cost KRW 28.2131 trillion in total investment, and raised South Korean military capacity from 54.2 percent of the North’s in late 1981 to 71 percent by the end of 1992.
The National Defense Science Institute (NDSI) succeeded in developing emergency weapons in 1971, accelerating the development and modernization of weaponry in Korea. Korean defense researchers went on to localize the technical data packages (TDPs) secured from the United States, and designed and invented original weapons. The localization of all basic weapons was complete by the late 1970s. Korean researchers, moreover, succeeded in reverse-engineering and launching a Nike missile in 1978, but switched to developing their own basic weapon models in the 1980s.
The sudden downsizing of research staff at the NDSI in 1982, however, slowed advances in defense research and development.
[Table 3-1] Yulgok Project Overview
||Proportion in defense budget
||Comparison to North Korean capacity
||Securing defense capacity against North Korea
||Reinforcing quantity and quality of defense capacity
||Building future-oriented military
Source: MND, Past, Present, and Future of the Yulgok Project
, 1994, 33-48
(2) Military Service and Mobilization
1) Military service
The entire text of the Military Service Act (MSA) was amended for the third time in 1970, and again for the fourth time in 1980. The creation of the Military Manpower Administration (MMA) facilitated the design and enforcement of military policies in the 1970s, enhancing institutional control over military administration. The Korean military also began to introduce information and computer systems into military administration during this period in response to the increase in, and diversification of, military resources and duties.
Military service classes were simplified into active-duty, reservist, and supplementary forces, and also included People’s Force 1 and 2. The reporting requirement upon entering People’s Force 1 was abolished to facilitate the admission process. The Special Measures Act on the Violation of the MSA was enacted, introducing severer punishments for conscription dodgers and other forms of military corruption.
The active-duty military term was 33 months for the Army and 39 months for the Air Force and the Navy in 1977, but decreased over time to reach 30 and 35 months, respectively, by 1984. The term for the Navy was further reduced to 32 months in 1990 (Kim, 2002, 151).
The introduction of the Combat Police Force (CPF) and special-case military services increased the need for a better human resources deployment system, and led to the development of diverse new types of services. The Combat Police Force Act (CPFA) treated voluntary entry into the CPF as equal to serving active duty on conscription. The Rules on the Special Cases of Military Services, enacted in 1973, allowed the military to conscript and assign highly educated, skilled, and/or artistically talented men to related positions outside active-duty military services. The scope of these “special cases” was later expanded to include recruitment of those in the natural sciences.
The Emergency Preparation Resource Management Act (Law 3745) was enacted in 1984, providing the institutional basis for emergency military preparations. The reserve forces were renamed in 1973, so that the Gapho force was now known as the Mobilization Reserve (MR), and others as the General Reserves. The MR was again renamed as Combat Unit 1, while the General Reserves became Local Combatant Units.
Agencies were set up to manage the reserve forces and their mobilization. The Mobilization Division was established at Army Headquarters in the 1980s; it was abolished in 1983, but revived in 1985. Changes were introduced into reserve service as well. The age-dependent reserve system was reintroduced in 1988, and officers were commissioned in the reserves as well. The maximum age for reserve service was lowered from 35 to 33 in 1990.
The mobilization system also underwent numerous changes during this period. The chief criterion for mobilizing men changed in 1973 from the number of years after being discharged from active duty to specialty and other such factors. The Emergency Planning Committee further adjusted the duration of the mobilization process and the deadlines involved in 1974, extending the number of steps and months making up the mobilization process from nine steps to 12, and from six months to a year. The mobilization plan also came to encompass industrial, transportation, and construction details. The mobilization process was fixed from 1975 to 1979; in1979 it was further reformed to include unit-level mobilization, collective mobilization, and individual mobilization, reforms that remain in place to this day. The emergency phase of the mobilization process was reduced in 1980 from 15 days to seven days. In 1991, the scope of the peacetime emergency phase changed to include the designation of additional or new units, while the resources to be gathered in the normal phase were required to be decided at least four days prior to mobilization.
(3) Military Administration
1) Military and administrative personnel
The perception that the South Korean military fell far short of North Korea’s in terms of size, capability and weaponry reigned supreme in the mid-1970s, compelling the South Korean military to recruit and conscript an ever-increasing number of men to service. Despite the dramatic increase in the size of military personnel, however, the personnel management system lacked sophistication, merely copying the American system. The weak personnel management during this period was reflected in the absence of professionalism and expertise in the rank and file of soldiers.
Efforts for rationalizing and consolidating the military personnel management system began during this period, focused on specialization training and moving qualified soldiers up the military ladder. Specialization and professionalization in the military, in particular, made great and systematic strides during this period, helping to streamline and facilitate military personnel management.
2) Defense training
The vision of achieving national defense self-sufficiency sustained efforts for military modernization throughout the 1970s. The Army Headquarters came to include the Training Research and Improvement Committee in 1973, charged with devising and improving the entire training curricula for soldiers. The Research Progress Command was abolished and replaced with the Training Command as part of the Army Headquarters in 1975, integrating research and training.
The Navy and the Air Force also created their own training and doctrine commands, in 1973 and 1981, respectively.
With the establishment of these new systems, military training in Korea effectively entered a new chapter.
The Korea National Defense University (KNDU) began to offer master-level degrees on October 28, 1979, enabling the military to produce its own experts. The Armed Forces Staff College (AFSC) was also created on October 10, 1990, with the aim of producing military experts especially skilled at joint and combined exercises, thereby enhancing the military’s overall capacity for such operations.
3) Defense budget
The pursuit of national defense self-sufficiency increased defense spending from KRW 184.3 billion in 1973, to KRW 458.8 billion in 1975, KRW 2.2465 trillion in 1980, KRW 3.6892 trillion in 1985, and KRW 6.6378 trillion in 1990. The proportion of defense spending in the overall national budget ranged from between 23 and 34 percent during this time. Human resources, strength reinforcement, and maintenance claimed 45 percent, 18 percent, and 36.3 percent, respectively, of overall spending in 1975, but changed to 38.3percent, 33.5percent, and 28.2 percent, respectively, in 1985 (Jeon, 2005, 221-223), showing a steep rise in the reinforcement cost.
The performance-oriented budgeting system was introduced in the 1970s to ensure more effective defense budget management in both financial and organizational terms. Washington’s decision to abruptly cut the amounts of grants and aid it provided to Korea led to the growing recognition among Korean policymakers of the need to enhance self-sufficiency, especially in national defense. Dramatic increases in the amounts of investments made in reinforcing military strength also raised the need to develop more systematic mid to long-term national defense plans. The Planning Programming Budgeting System (PPBS) was thus adopted in 1980.
The defense tax was introduced in 1975 to manage the explosive growth of defense spending and promote advanced research and development as well as modernization of the military. The new tax helped to gather the revenue necessary for national defense self-sufficiency.
(4) Relations with Civilians
The Fourth Republic saw the rise of presidential absolutism in Korea under the so-called “Yushin (Reform) Constitution.” The military rose to the position of first-class elite during this period, with bureaucratic, corporate, and intellectual elites all playing subservient roles. The policy of specially hiring graduates of military academies as public officials from 1977 to 1987 invited a major social backlash.
The military, nevertheless, did provide vocational training for the industrial workforce in the 1970s, playing a significant role in the socioeconomic development of Korea.
The Fifth Republic followed after President Choi Kyuha’s short-lived interim government and saw the rise and consolidation of the new military regime under President Chun Doohwan. Although the Choi administration sought to modernize Korean politics and foster political participation as part of its crisis management system, it was hopelessly incapable of controlling the political and social chaos that had erupted in the birth of the democratization movement. Security Commander and Major-General Chun Doohwan thus led a group of armed men in a coup
, and ushered in the era of the Fifth Republic.
The Fifth Republic drove a decisive wedge between civil society and the military over the military government’s tragic and atrocious handling of the Gwangju Democratization Movement in 1980. In the meantime, President Chun continued to assert his supremacy over the legislature, the judiciary, and the administration, and solidified the personalistic tendency in Korean politics. Yet the Fifth Republic suffered a serious crisis of legitimacy, born as it was amid the violence and bloodbath it had perpetuated against the people (Choi, 2007, 38-39).
President Roh Taewoo marked the launch of the Sixth Republic. Although Roh won the presidency through a popular vote, suspicions of illegitimacy shadowed him since as a former military officer, he was perceived by the people as Chun’s political protégé. Nevertheless, as the leader of the Democracy and Justice Party, Roh led the drafting of the June 29 Declaration and accepted much of the demand for democratization. To improve the government’s relationship with public that had been seriously ruptured under its predecessor, the Roh administration sought to democratize and depoliticize the military, disclosing details of military administration and resolving various conflicts involving life in the military (Choi, 2007, 40-41).
Military-civilian relations in Korea thus deteriorated from the early part to the middle part of this period, before entering a transitional period in the later phase with the government making more active efforts to mend ties with civil society.
The main aims of Phase 1 were replacing outdated equipment, developing forward local bases, producing various crew-served weapons, building high-speed patrol crafts, and purchasing F4 aircraft. Phase 2 aimed to localize the development and production of self-propelled guns, tanks, and armored vehicles, as well as build major combatant ships, and adopt and localize the F5 fighter production technique. Phase 3 focused on localizing the production of tanks, armored vehicles, self-propelled guns, helicopters, submarines, and F16 fighters as well as improving the performance of equipment in all forces.
Korean researchers also succeeded in developing armored vehicles for infantrymen as part of their efforts to develop precise weapons systems. They additionally developed high-speed patrol crafts for the Navy. Progress in the area of aviation and the Air Force was much slower to come.
The Army also newly created its Training and Doctrine Command on May 1, 1981, to regulate all training agencies (except the Military Academy) throughout the Army. In the meantime, the schools for infantry, gunnery, armory, and chemical soldiers were integrated into a single Combat Divisions School, making it difficult for each branch to provide in-depth and effective training.
The PPBS Research Committee was created as part of the Special Military Mission Censorship Group in 1971 and charged with research and development for the military over the next five years. MND Order 253 of June 7, 1979 ensured the effectiveness of the PPBS as of January 1, 1980. MND Order 308 (1983) introduced execution and evaluation phases into the PPBS (Lee, 1986, 17).
Between 1977 and 1987, public administration was comprised 73.2 percent (1,601) of individuals who had passed civil service examinations and 26.8 percent (586) of former administrators of the Yushin military regime (Mun, 1992, 99).
Vocational training was provided in a wide range of fields—machinery, communication, electrical engineering, electronics, aviation, civil engineering, architecture, chemical engineering, etc.—enabling 115,000 people to obtain national technical certification between 1975 and 1990 and have stable livelihoods.
Korea Institute of Public Administration. 2008. Korean Public Administration, 1948-2008, Edited by Korea Institute of Public Administration. Pajubookcity: Bobmunsa.