South Korea: Mandatory Military Service Frozen at 21 Months

The Chosun Ilbo, 22 December 2010
http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2010/12/22/2010122201061.html

The Defense Ministry on Tuesday decided to freeze mandatory military service for the Army and Marine Corps at the current 21 months effective from Feb. 27 next year in response to mounting tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The term for the Navy, marine police, and firefighters on active duty will be 23 months, and for the Air Force 24 months effective from early January next year.

The step put the brakes on a gradual reduction of conscription from 24 months to 18 months for the Army, 20 months for the Navy and 21 months for the Air Force, which was announced in September 2007.

"The Presidential Committee on Defense Advancement proposed to President Lee Myung-bak that the term of mandatory service be restored to 24 months, but it has been decided to freeze the term at the current 21 months to minimize the disadvantage of future conscripts and prevent a weakening of the military's combat capability," a Defense Ministry official said.

The move comes after North Korea torpedoed the Navy corvette Cheonan in March and shelled of Yeonpyeong Island in November.

The reduction from 24 to 21 months is expected to result in a manpower shortage of some 37,000 by 2029, which the military plans to supplement with more volunteers.

englishnews@chosun.com / Dec. 22, 2010 13:09 KST