Published : 2013-01-11 20:28
Updated : 2013-01-11 20:28
In a nation under the constant threat of hostilities from outside, it is a matter of course to place top priority on national defense. That is what President-elect Park Geun-hye has promised to do in unmistakable terms.
Park, who committed herself to watertight security during her campaign, said it is necessary to ensure that North Korea will be made to pay a high price for its military adventurism. She said South Korea will have to develop a full capacity for retaliation if it is to make the North abandon the idea of provoking the South.
Now she is preparing to make good on her promise. One of the concrete actions to be taken in this regard is to change the name of the office of the senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs and nation security to the office of national security and upgrade the new office to one headed by a minister-level official, instead of a vice minister-level one.
Another indication of Park’s policy priority placed on national security is that a former minister of national defense was selected to head the transition team’s committee on foreign affairs, national defense and Korean reunification. Moreover, the Ministry of National Defense was one of the first two government agencies to brief Park’s transition team on its pending issues on Friday.
Still, the ministry is irked by one of Park’s campaign promises ― a pledge to cut the active duty term of those drafted for compulsory military service by three months to 18 months. Should Park go ahead with her commitment this year, the ministry expects the military to experience an average annual shortage of 27,000 troops until 2030.
The proposed cut in military service had not been considered as an option until four days before the Dec. 19 election. She had said those who have completed 21 months of military service should be rewarded by the extension of the retirement age and other means. Apparently convinced that she had a neck-and-neck race against her rival, she committed herself on Dec. 15 to cutting the compulsory military service to 18 month to woo support from young voters.
Even if she realizes her commitment was an ill-considered decision, she may yet find it irreversible. If so, she will do well to keep herself from hastening to fulfill her promise and take time to devise ways to make up for the anticipated shortage of troops.