The military and civil society in korea



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THE MILITARY AND CIVIL SOCIETY IN KOREA

Doo-Seung Hong

Department of Sociology

Seoul National University


dshong@snu.ac.kr


Introduction

This paper discusses conflicts and cooperation between the Korean armed forces and civil society in the postmodern era. In the process of democratization the relationship between the military and civil society has been redefined and reformulated. As the civil sector has grown, the demands and expectations from civilians toward the military have substantially increased. In the past, and even now to some extent, the military establishment has been segregated and isolated from the civilian sector. Cultural characteristics frequently found among military men, including authoritarianism, uniformity, ritualism, collective-orientation, perfectionism and institutionalism, appear to be alien to civilians.

Authoritarian regimes in South Korea in the 1960s through the 1980s are now thought of purely in historical terms, particularly in light of the establishment of a series of new democratic governments since the 1990s. As a result, NGOs or citizens’ associations have surfaced to become a new civilian force in the political sphere. The changing social milieu no longer regards the military as a social institution which is “exceptional” or “special.” Civilian standards tend to be employed to evaluate the intra-organizational dynamics of the military. The reform of the defense administrative apparatus and military judicial system is likewise planning to move in this direction.

However, military officials are likely to believe that the identity and specificity of military institution may not be appraised by civilian values. They are worried about the shrinkage of the military commandership, as the new military judicial system places more weight on the rights of soldiers as individuals. The military institution basically respects the rights of individuals, but sees individual sacrifice as sometimes being inevitable for the public good.

With the expansion of the civilian sector, the public perception of the military presence has changed. Complaints and grievances against military installations have often emerged in relations to the public’s own interests, both by local residents appealing for compensation as a result of the stationing of military units and by local governments asking the military to relocate for the purpose of community development, inter alia. Stated in this way, this paper particularly explores the relations between the military and civil society in Korea over the past few decades.

An Analytic Model for Civil-Military Relations

There has been much discussion over how to understand the military institution since World War II. The theories of civil-military relations have been represented by Huntington (1957) and Janowitz (1971). While Huntington postulated that military professionalism and civilian control can be maximized when the military gives up its influence and stay isolated from civil society, Janowitz focused on the importance of social representation of the military when the military is integrated with civil society. Although the conceptualization of both Huntington and Janowitz focused on civil-military relations with respect to military professionalism, both provided pioneering implications for how to integrate the military institution to or segregate it from the civilian sector (also refer to Larson, 1974; Sarkesian, 1984).

From a different perspective, Moskos (1977; 1986) proposed two models in the 1970s to describe alternative conceptions of military organization. Based on the American experience, he hypothesized that the military is moving from an institutional format to one resembling that of an occupation. According to him, an institution is legitimated in terms of values and norms, while an occupation is legitimated in terms of the marketplace. Therefore, in the institutional model, a higher good transcends individual self-interest whereas in the occupational model, monetary rewards prevail over self-sacrifice and dedication. In the institutional model, the emphasis is on the specificity of the military organization as being distinct from civilian organization, whereas in the occupational model, the military places more importance on occupational characters.

In civil-military relations, two models that I call the integration model and the segregation model are proposed. In the integration model, the military maximizes components common to civilian society and then seeks to find solutions from the logic of civilian organization. By contrast, in the segregation model the military community maintains a certain distance from civilian society highlighting specific features of the military institution.

The basic conception of the two analytic models is that in the integration model, the military as s subsystem of civil society shares universalistic features with civilian organizations while in the segregation model the particularistic features of the military are highlighted as being distinct from civilian organization. In this process the military acquires civilian order in the integration model, but the features unique to the military are emphasized in the segregation model. In the integration model, we are more concerned with the occupational characteristics required from the military institution, while in the segregation model, we are more concerned with the institutional characteristics as depicted in Table 1.
Table 1. The Concepts and Characteristics of Two Models

Category

Integration Model

Segregation Model

Basic Concept

Universalism

Particularism

Civil-military Relations

Civilianization

Militarization

Orientation

Occupationalism

Institutionalism


Public Perceptions of the Military in Korea: An Overview

The military was perceived by people as the most powerful group in Korean politics up until the late 1980s. In a survey conducted by a research institute in the late 1980s, the military appeared to be the most influential political group among the ten selected groups followed by students and assemblymen (Hong, 1996: 81). But influence and power of a group or organization and the perceived trust of a group or organization are different. Here I am concerned with the degree to which the military is trusted as compared with other civilian occupations and institutions. To this end, a trust index is calculated in the following manner. The question asking the degree of trust was originally measured on a 5-point Likert scale and transformed into –100 (complete distrust) to +100 (complete trust). Trust of the military slightly increased over a seven-year period from 1996 to 2003 coming closer to the average that indicates neither trust nor distrust (Table 2).

As viewed from the Korean experience of rule by either the military or by ex-military men over a period of 30 years ending with the advent of democracy in the early 1990s, a positive figure of the military in the trust index reveals interesting results as Table 2 clearly shows. According to a report by a research institute based on national sample surveys, the military ranked third, after NGOs and universities, among seven selected institutions in 2003 (ISDPR, 2003). In 2006, a mere three years after that assessment, a marked increase of the trust index score for the military (21.2) could be noticed. This study is based on a national representative survey conducted by the Korea Institute for Military Affairs. The data were collected from face-to-face interviews from April 25 to May 11, 2006. The survey included a sample of 1,224 people aged 20 or over.
Table 2. Change of Trust Index by Institution, 1996~2003

Institution

1996

2003

NGO

22.0

19.4

University

16.0

3.1
Military

-3.7

1.0

Labor Union

5.9

-2.3

Religious Group

-2.9

-6.1

Press

-5.2

-13.2

Large Firm

-24.9

-22.8

Government

-29.6

-26.6

Judiciary

-20.1

-28.4

Note: Index ranges from –100 to +100.

Source: ISDPR (2003: 110).


Interestingly, in the more recent survey, one-half of the respondents showed their trust of the military, while a little over one-tenth revealed their distrust. The degree of trust, however, varies between age groups. Those in their 50s and over place considerable trust in the military, while those in the 20s show the least trust (Table 3).
Table 3. Degree of Trust with the Military by Age Group, 2006 (Unit: %)

Category

20~29

30~39

40~49

50 +

All

Trust

33.6

48.7

53.5

59.4

49.8

Neither trust nor not trust

48.3

40.9

36.3

30.8

38.4

Not trust

18.1

10.4

10.2

9.8

11.8

Total


100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

df = 6, p < .001.
Public perceptions of the military have two sides. On the one hand, some factors have contributed to positive images of the military, such as the defeat of North Korean guerillas in a skirmish, the self-sacrificing commitment of military personnel and accidental injuries or deaths related to the fulfillment of their mission. On the other hand, the factors that have contributed to negative images include the suspicious deaths of soldiers during military service, evasion of obligatory military service by influential people and various types of unintentional accidents. However, no one would now dare deny that the Korean military establishment has become depoliticized and professionalized.

In addition to trust, images of the military have been assessed by asking about various aspects of its current situation. Overall, on five dimensions of military status, respondents tend to place each in the middle, but are likely to rate the issue of economic remuneration a little more lowly (Table 4).


Table 4. Public Assessment of the Military with Respect to Each Dimension (Unit: %)

With respect to

High

Middle

Low

Total

Average

Social Prestige

24.3

48.4

27.2

100.0

3.0

Political Neutrality

16.9

56.2

26.9

100.0

2.9

Democratization

24.7

46.7

28.6

100.0

2.9

Economic Remuneration

16.4

44.0

39.5

100.0

2.7

Welfare & Fringe Benefits


23.2

44.1

32.7

100.0

2.9

Note: Average indicates average score on a 5-point scale with higher number showing higher evaluation.
Specific activities that the armed forces carry out to help civilians ranging from daily routines to emergence aids, are perceived as successful operations (Table 5). Peacekeeping operations (PKO) and activities for environmental conservation are assessed less favorably than civil service and emergency aids. South Korea has participated in PKO activities since 1993, when it first dispatched an engineering battalion to Somalia. Since then, approximately 4,000 Korean soldiers have been deployed to seven different regions such as East Timor, Angola and Western Sahara. Of these, over 3,000 troops of an infantry battalion, the first combat unit ever deployed for PKO activities, carried out their missions in East Timor for four years during the period of 1999 through 2003.

Currently the Zaytun1 Division consisting of over 3,200 soldiers is stationed in Iraq for civil-military operations for peace and reconstruction. Even though their mission was limited to peacekeeping activities, the decision to deploy an infantry division to Iraq as part of a group of multi-national forces sparked social controversy on the occasion of its approval by the National Assembly in early 2004. Such controversy might have helped people lean toward a certain amount of skepticism about the nature of PKO activities.

In the category of environmental conservation, negative feelings toward the military appear to be much higher than other activities. Over the past few years, the NGOs that were concerned about environmental problems have raised the issue of environmental pollution over the areas where military units had once been stationed. For example, Green Korea United, a leading NGO for environmental protection, disclosed that waste was illegally buried in the ranger training site of an army unit stationed in Incheon Metropolitan City in July 2000, and that in April 2001, another army unit that had been stationed in an area in the Province of Gyeongsangbuk-do since the 1970s had been heavily polluting the area with waste on a daily basis. This organization demanded effective measures for waste management of military units and proposed a civil-military joint investigation on military-related waste.2 In recent years, the military has become to recognize the importance of environmental conservation. The MND has driven projects to introduce preventive measures to combat environmental pollution, and has thus made further investment on infrastructure for environmental protection over the past decade.
Table 5. Perceptions of Military Activities & Assistance to Civil Sector (Unit: %)

Activities

Successful

Neither

Unsuccessful

Total

Civil Support & Service

71.8

22.5

5.7

100.0

Emergency Aids

70.1

23.8

6.1

100.0

PKO


49.2

41.7

9.1

100.0

Environmental Conservation


35.5

45.5

19.0

100.0

Since 1980, the portion of the defense budget in relation to both the total government budget and the GDP has continually decreased, and a particularly sharp drop could be noted during the period of the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s (Figure 1). From 1997 to 2003 the government budget increased by 77% while the defense budget did so only by 27%. If the rise in prices during this period is taken into account, the real purchasing power of the defense budget appears to remain at the level of 1997. The MND (2004) reports that as of 2002, the percentage of defense budget against GDP ranked 59th of the world, the budget per capita ranked 29th and the budget per soldier ranked 62nd and the size of the national economy ranked 12th. The decreasing trends of the defense budget have squeezed the operation and management of defense administration, particularly in the strengthening of war potential, combat readiness and the morale and welfare of soldiers. Then, how do people perceive the situation of the defense budget? About half of the respondents think that the current level of defense budget is adequate, while the other half are divided into ‘a lot’ and ‘little,’ though little is slightly higher than much (Table 6).



Figure 1. Changes in Defense Budget, 1980~2004

Source: MND (2004: 20).
Views on the size of military manpower show a similar pattern, but the percentage who chose ‘adequate’ is much higher than those who did so for the category of defense budget. Those who responded ‘a lot’ to the issues of both defense budget and military manpower are presumed to prefer the downsizing of the armed forces. These people are more frequently found among the younger generation.
Table 6. Perceptions of Defense Budgets and Manpower (Unit: %)

Classification

A Lot

Adequate

Little

Total

Defense Budget

23.5

48.9

27.5

100.0

Military Manpower


21.0

56.9

22.1

100.0

The Korean Armed Forces now maintain 680,000 troops in personnel strength. The MND’s ‘Defense Reform 2020’ involves reducing the number of troops by one quarter to 500,000, with the emphasis on downsizing the number of army personnel by 2020. It aims at achieving a more balanced development among the Army, Navy and Air Force, as well as at transforming Korea’s manpower-based Armed Forces into a slimmer but more productive and stronger unit equipped with high-tech weapon systems.



New Approaches to Old Issues

Issues directly related to the military are diverse, but more progressive approaches to old issues have surfaced in the 2000s, particularly during the Roh Moo-hyun administration. Since the 1990s the issues in civil-military relations are fourfold: first, there are those related to the quality of life and the protection of private property of citizens at the individual level; second, there are those related to public interests at the community level, such as environmental conservation; third, there are those related to human rights in the barracks; and fourth, there are those related to ideology, specifically toward anti-war and anti-nuclear pacifism. The first issue occurs mainly from economic interests of local residents living around or near to military camps while the other three issues have been raised mainly by NGO activists. Particularly, the fourth is a target of some radical reformists.

Even though the second issue has a cause for the public good at the local community level, the so-called ‘NIMBY’ phenomenon still exists at the national level. In fact, these issues are so complicated that they appear mixed and one dimension is often in conflict with another. Toward common goals, local residents and NGOs sometimes show a coalition, but the interests of the residents do not necessarily converge to those which the NGOs are directed toward. Likewise, local governments and NGO activists take a similar stance if necessary to attain the goal of mutual interest against the national government or the armed forces, particularly related to the second issue.

The military is no longer considered to be a “sacred” part of society. Even classified information that used to be officially secret and restricted from the general public is now challenged for public access by citizens who wish to satisfy their demand for ‘knowledge.’



Conscription and Conscientious Objection

South Korea maintains its military under a compulsory conscription system. All able-bodied men aged 20 or over are required to serve in the military for 24~28 months. As expected, many youngsters are not so anxious to join the military for such a long period of time, not only because they have to serve against their will in the barracks of a “rank society” with very little compensation, but also because they must stop their study or civilian work in order to serve their country. Thus, some argue that the introduction of an all-volunteer system should be considered as an alternative to universal conscription.



As for the issue of universal conscription, however, 77.3% of the respondents agreed that the principle of universal conscription has to be kept while 22.7% prefer an all-volunteer system. However, the degree of choice again varies by age group. Substantial differences are found between age groups on the issue of conscription. While overall, the majority of Koreans believe that conscription should be kept, among the younger generation and people in their 20s in particular, those who are in favor of an all-volunteer system are more noticeable.
Table 7. Attitudes towards Conscription by Age Group (Unit: %)

Category

20~29

30~39

40~49

50 +

All

Should be kept

29.4

42.2

47.9

61.3

46.5

Should be kept, but amended

34.7

34.4

30.3

25.3

30.8

All-volunteer system be adopted

35.8

23.4

21.8

13.3

22.7

Total

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

df = 6, p < .001.
Table 8. Effects of Military Service on Civilian Life by Age Group (Unit: %)

Category

20~29

30~39

40~49

50 +

All

Helpful

61.5

69.2

77.5

80.1

72.7

No Effect

23.4

20.8

15.5

13.4

17.9

Not Helpful

15.1

10.1

7.0

6.6

9.4

Total


100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

df = 6, p < .001.
The majority of Koreans tend to think that the experience in the military would help people in post-military civilian life. As shown in Table 8, almost three-fourths of the respondents answered in favor of a positive effect of military experience on post-military civilian life. However, differences between age groups are noticeable, as the older generation has a more positive view on the influence of military service on civilian life.

The issue of conscientious objection is far from being socially accepted in South Korea, even though some human rights activists have continually highlighted the issue and its problems and have called for an alternative form of service to be considered. In August 2005, the Constitutional Court made a decision that affirmed the current conscription law as lawful, asserting religious beliefs cannot override national security. In December 2005, however, the National Human Rights Commission, a state agency established in November 2001 to protect and promote human rights in Korea, recommended that the government recognize the individual right to refuse compulsory military service based on someone’s religious conviction.3 The recommendation contrasted with the Constitutional Court’s decision, and though it was not legally binding, it plunged the nation into conflict between opponents and supporters of conscientious objection.

Under the current conscription system, conscientious objectors who refused to serve their mandatory military service period are subject to a jail term of up to three years. Every year, about 700 conscientious objectors are punished, usually with jail terms. Most of these are Jehovah’s Witnesses.4 At present, about 450 young men are in prison for having refused their mandatory military service requirement. There are strong beliefs among Koreans that as long as the nation is confronted with the military threat from North Korea, its defense capability should not be compromised under any circumstances. Therefore, the general public is less likely to accept conscientious objection.

Most people, including a substantial number of young people, oppose the idea of permitting active duty objectors to take on alternative service. They believe that increased tolerance toward conscientious objectors will mean that more young people who are subject to conscription will opt for substitute service, thus seriously weakening the nation’s defense capabilities due to an anticipated shortage in military manpower.


Table 9. Attitudes towards Conscientious Objection by Age Group (Unit: %)

Category

20~29

30~39

40~49

50 +

All

Should not be allowed

57.0

70.7

77.8

86.6

74.1

Conditionally allowed

37.0

24.8

19.4

11.4

22.1

Should be allowed

6.0

4.6

2.8

1.9

3.8

Total


100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

df = 6, p < .001.
Compulsory active duty thus now faces a new challenge, as the National Human Rights Commission recommended that the MND guarantee freedom of conscience for all as stipulated in the Constitution. The Ministry opposed the controversial proposal by saying that the implementation of alternative service should be carefully dealt with. But Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung disclosed his plans to launch a committee to study alternative service for conscientious objectors. The Military Manpower Administration, which is in charge of conscription, came up with the sternest objection, saying that it is premature to introduce alternative service for conscientious objectors in light of the current division of the Korean peninsula

According to the principles of universal conscription, it is generally believed that everyone should fulfill military duty without exception (74.1%). And some think that it is acceptable only if an institutional guarantee (e.g. judicial verdict) deems it acceptable as conscientious liberty (22.1%). Only a small number of people agree that all applicants for conscientious objection should be allowed (3.8%).


Relationship with Citizens, Local Governments and NGOs

In recent years, the military has faced enraged challenges from citizens who do not want military installations and training grounds built or stationed near to where they live. People living in the areas designated as military reservation areas have filed complaints about the restrictions they must incur while exercising their rights to private property. Moreover, at the level of local administrative government, community development is asserted to be hampered by the presence of huge military compounds. Particularly, local residents tend to be very sensitive to such military installations as airfields and firing ranges that are likely to cause noise and damage or injury from stray bullets. For this reason, some major projects planned by the military have been blocked or delayed by citizens and NGOs. In certain areas, a pan-citizen struggle committee has been organized to obstruct building military facilities. The environmental NGOs have incessantly raised the issue of environmental pollution caused by military stationing. Now, it becomes a difficult knot to untie to compromise public and private interests when they are in conflict.



Since the two Koreas have been in a continual state of war since the Korean War (1950~53), the government has listed 164,296 areas across the country in this category, the bulk of which are located near the inter-Korean border.5 In early 2006, the government announced a plan to lift or ease its restrictions on 58,000 acres in 139 military reservation areas for the sake of public convenience.6 In February 2004, the MND had already lifted or eased restrictions on 67,500 acres in 460 areas nation-wide. More areas are expected to be freed from such limitations in the future.
Table 10. Contents of Civil Appeal Related to Military Training Ground, 2000~2004*

Contents

N

%

Appeal seeking compensation for damages by military training

133

32.4

Demand for purchasing private property

87

21.2

Appeal for guaranteeing the rights of private property

63

15.3

Demand for relocating training ground for community development

61

14.8

Resistance to establishing training ground

24

5.8

Demand for rental fees to use state, public or private properties

19

4.6

Other

24

5.8

Total

411

100.0

*As of July, 2004. Source: ROKA Headquarters.
In the period of January 2000 through July 2004, a total of 411 petitions were filed with the Army in relation to military training grounds. Of these, 133 cases (32.4%) were appeals by local residents seeking compensation for damages caused by military training. In 87 cases (21.2%), the residents demanded that the military authority purchase their land for military use because the usage of the land was limited by military installations. Likewise, another 63 cases (15.3%) were related to the rights of private property as guaranteed by Korean law. Appeals have been frequently made by residents living around air force airfields because of noise. In February 2003, for example, about 2,300 villagers living near to the 8th Fighter Wing in Hoengsong, Gangwon-do, filed a 23,000 million won (24 million US dollars) lawsuit against the Air Force to compensate for the noise of its fighters. The total number of petitions filed at the MND in relation to noise amounted to almost 300 for the three years from 2000 to 2002.

The above-mentioned appeals were made not only by residents but also by local governments. Military installations and training grounds were originally placed in sparsely populated remote areas, but the fast development of urban areas has expanded residential areas much closer to military bases. As a result of this process, military facilities have emerged as barriers to urban restructuring, and local governments have come to need more spaces for community development. Thus, local governments have asked the Army to move training fields outside city boundaries (14.8%). For example, the South District Office of Incheon Metropolitan City requested a move of a military unit in order to allow the city to build a new office building.

Conflicts of interests are occasionally found between the military and local governments as well as between the military and citizens. Recently, for instance, the Air Force submitted a petition to the central government to arbitrate its dispute with the Seoul Metropolitan government over a conglomerate’s plan to build the country’s tallest building in southeastern Seoul. The Air Force had argued that the planned building would pose problems for the safety of aircraft landing at nearby Seongnam airbase.7 Although the military had demanded that the business group reduce the height of the building for said safety reasons, the Seoul municipal authorities eventually approved the plan.
Human Rights in Barracks
The argument that has become prevalent among NGO activists is that the military should no longer be ‘a state within the state,’ which is a radical departure from the era when the highest value was placed on the preservation of military discipline and secure commandership. Thus, the idea has been rebutted that human rights may be superseded by the specificity of the military. It goes without saying that among high-ranking officers there still remain concerns about the weakening of commandership due to the emphasis of human rights issues within military barracks. Even so, we may now witness some changes in the minds of officers and NCOs. A growing number of them seem to realize that the rights of soldiers as human beings can go hand in hand with military discipline, and that a strong army must be based on voluntary commitment rather than on coercive measures.

In this vein, the cases of suspicious deaths of military personnel in the past have begun to be reexamined. In 2005 the Committee to Settle the Past History for Truth and Reconciliation started its operations to correct past wrongs. Presupposing that there had been too many victims of unfair and unjustified persecution to be consigned to oblivion, the Committee argued that physical harm is irreversible but reputations should be restored for historic justice.

To keep abreast of pan-governmental moves, the Committee to Review Past History of the MND was inaugurated in May 2005. The Committee declared that it would justly uncover past wrongs, establish ways to eliminate such misdeeds in the future, and set up the foundation of a more trustworthy military. The events they plan to review include the process of the new military elites’ power acquisition in 1979 through 1980 and the subsequent period of persecution that occurred thereafter. Although its basic goal was to uncover the truth and reconcile the injured with the injurers, it is undeniable that it has caused national controversy.

In early 2005, the Army prepared a comprehensive plan to improve the human rights of soldiers.8 According to this plan, the Army Committee for Improving Human Rights was inaugurated for the purpose of protecting human rights in barracks and eventually forming a military culture in which mutual respect and consideration for others are taken into serious account. Although every effort has been exerted to root out such malignant forms of behaviors as beating, cruelty and harassment that have plagued barracks for a long time, there nevertheless remains a large degree of violence and abusive language.

In early 2006, the National Human Rights Committee recommended that the MND abolish or revise laws and regulations pertaining to enlisted homosexuals so as to protect the rights of those who are members of sexual minorities. While the number of soldiers who have been found to be gay and have thus been discharged from active service is small,9 the idea that homosexual soldiers should be treated respectfully while living in barracks astonished many ordinary citizens as well as military professionals. Even though the idea of eradicating prejudice and discrimination against homosexuals seems persuasive at the societal level, the negative sentiments of people who are against homosexual servicemen still appear to prevail.10

In close relation to the human rights issue, the presidential committee on judicial reform submitted a bill for the revision of military judicial system to the National Assembly in September 2005. A set of reform measures is directed toward an autonomous judicial process. To guarantee the autonomy of military courts and prosecution, the MND decided to establish a high court and a high prosecutor’s office in the ministry headquarters and five local district offices each instead of the offices currently belonging to division-level unit commanders. The system of a commander’s confirmation on judicial decisions is to be abolished in peacetime, but restored in wartime. Likewise, those officers who are not judge advocates will not be allowed to participate in trials as judges. Instead, as of 2007, the new system will introduce a jury system allowing officers, NCOs and rank-and-file soldiers to participate in trials as jurors, although jury opinions will not be legally binding.11

In regard to this issue, the majority of senior officers expressed regrets and worries about the damage of military capability during a time of military emergency due to the weakening of commandership. In fact, under the new law, military prosecutors no longer have to obtain an approval from a division-level commander before indicting alleged criminals, and thus, suspicions remain that these prosecutors might exercise unchecked power outside the military chain of command. Military professionals tend to believe that the military should not follow all the civilian-level measures, since preparing for a war is the military’s raison d’etre.

Civilianization of Defense Administration

Although the MND is a governmental agency, the majority of the ministerial and deputy ministerial positions have been occupied by ex-military officers. Since August 1948, when the First Republic was inaugurated, 33 (84.6%) of a total of 39 defense ministers have been ex-general ranking officers: 17 generals, 15 lieutenant generals (vice admirals) and one major general, including the first defense minister Lee Bum-seok who had been a lieutenant general in the Korea Liberation Army before 1945. The appointment of civilian ministers ended up with Hyun Seok-ho in 1961 at the time of a military coup, and since then, no civilians have been appointed to the top leadership positions of the MND. In the case of deputy ministers, the percentage of general-turned-civilians fell to 64.9%, while that of “pure” civilians rose to 35.1%.

Among middle-level officials at the ministry, general-ranking and field-grade officers in active duty have constituted a majority and have furthermore, occupied key positions in charge of major decisions. Therefore, the MND has become one of the ministries least favored by civilian bureaucrats. In April 2005, the MND revealed its plan to reduce the number of officers in active duty serving in the ministry from 48% to 29% by 2009. As part of the plan, they transferred the 32 positions that general-ranking and field-grade officers had taken to civilians by the end of 2005. Included in this category are chiefs of the Personnel Planning Bureau, Legal Affairs Management Bureau and Military Installations Planning Bureau, which in the past had normally been appointed to general-ranking officers.12

Furthermore, in December 2005, the ministry also revealed that it plans to increase the number of civilian workers in the military by 7,000 to 30,000 by the year 2020, and also plans to promote their status to the level of public officials. The move came as the ministry has been pushing to put more civilians in posts at the Army-dominated ministry in order to secure high-quality, professional civilian personnel under its 15-year plan. Currently, there are about 23,000 civilians, both permanent and temporary, attached to the military, 3.6 percent of the country’s 680,000 manpower in active duty. Their mission has been limited to that of supporting active-duty military personnel with lower salaries. This figure will increase to six percent by 2020.

Since the turnover rate is high among active military staff, the ministry has had difficulties in raising its professional military workforce. Thus, it has proposed a plan to maintain professional and capable personnel by making quality civilians carry out their mission beyond supporting military staff.13 Ultimately, the ministry aims to solidify the civilian-led control system of an advanced democratic nation by expanding the civilian base in defense management. To this end, it plans to increase positions for civil servants in the MND and to expand the number of civilian personnel working in the area of defense.

Concluding Remarks

Old solutions seem no longer acceptable to the public. This paper has stressed that cooperation with the local community is very important for the stable deployment of military units. It also suggested that the sharing of physical and human resources with the community is a good strategy to solve the problems of civil-military conflict. There is social agreement on the necessity that the goal-oriented and mission-oriented military culture has to be changed so that it takes the rights of humans living in barracks into account.

Over the years, the Korean military has moved from segregation to integration with civil society by incorporating civilian values and norms and by adopting the logic of civilian organization to the military. The military appears to be aptly responsive to social change as reflected in the young recruits who have lived in the world in drastically different ways from those of the older generation. Yet, the issue of how to compromise the general and the military-specific features on the occasion of selecting policy alternatives will be subject to close scrutiny in order that it may comprehend the proper missions of the military.
References
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 Paper prepared for presentation at the XVI International Sociological Association (ISA) World Congress of Sociology to be held in Durban, South Africa, July 23~29, 2006.

1 The name ‘Zaytun’ refers to olive in Arabic which signifies peace.

2 Joong-ang Ilbo, April 17, 2001; http://www.greenkorea.org.

3 Korea Times, January 6, 2006.

4 Korea Times, December 26, 2005.

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9 In 2005, a total of eight gay soldiers were discharged from the military after they were found to be unfit to serve.

10 Korea Herald, April 5, 2006.

11 Chosun Ilbo, Korea Defense Daily, July 20, 2005.

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13 Korea Times, December 8, 2005.





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