South Korea to Downsize Military

Seoul September 5, 2005 - South Korea will establish an integrated operation command of the Army by 2010, as part of efforts to build more future-oriented armed forces, the Defense Ministry said during a Sept. 5 briefing. Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung unveiled a comprehensive reform plan of the military, focusing on downsizing the country's 680,000 troops by one-fourth by 2020, a senior ministry official said.

Under the plan, the ministry will reduce troops in three stages to around 500,000 by 2020, while boosting its defense capability through more advanced weapons systems. About 40,000 troops will be cut by 2008.

To achieve a more balanced improvement among the Army, Navy and Air Force, the ministry will merge the 1st and 3rd Army headquarters into a unified operation headquarters that will be put under the authority of the Joint Chiefs of Staff until 2010. Currently, the 1st and 3rd Army headquarters are deployed on the frontlines in Gangwon and Gyeonggi provinces, respectively. The 2nd Army, headquartered in Daegu, will be transformed into an operation headquarters in charge of orchestrating troops in the country's southern areas, according to the ministry. The ministry also plans to reduce the number of the Army's ten corps to six over the next five years, while reducing Army divisions to 20 from 47.

The Army's 550,000 troops currently account for some 81 percent of the armed forces. The Navy has 67,000 officers and sailors and the Air Force 64,000.

To fill up a possible security gap from the planned troop downsizing, the ministry said it will establish an integrated artillery division equipped with multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS).

The plan must be submitted to the National Assembly for approval during its next regular session.

South Korea's new KDX-II class of guided missile destroyers is likely a key element in trimming military manpower