South Korea to Begin Transformation As It Prepares to Buy Patriots
Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung recently reaffirmed his commitment to reform South Korea’s Army-dominated military to achieve a better balance between the Army, Navy and Air Force. South Korea has 690,000 troops, the sixth largest military in the world, including 550,000 Army troops who account for 81% of the nation’s military. The Navy has 67,000 troops and the Air Force, 64,000, according to the 2004 Defense White Paper published last March.
Yoon said the ministry will implement its three-point reform measures by 2020, including streamlining the Army and reorganizing military setups. Based on public consensus, the ministry will push for military reform on a coherent basis by legalizing reform methods, modeled after France’s military reform program
To achieve the five-year plan to enhance cooperative self-reliant defense capability, the ministry will secure a total of 99.4 trillion won ($94 billion). As DID reported on March 30/05, the Defense Minister noted his intention to increase the defense budget to 3.2% of the total gross domestic product by 2008 from the current 2.8%, a 12.5% increase in relative terms even before economic growth is factored in. The ministry recently requested 23.3 trillion won for its 2006 budget, up 12% from this year.
DID has covered some of the programs envisaged as part of that modernization. In related news, the Financial Times Deutschland (FTD) reports that Germany plans to sell South Korea surplus Patriot surface to air missiles in a deal worth millions of dollars, as it looks to cut the number of its Patriots batteries from 32 to 24. The Patriot missiles are designed to replace South Korea’s 40-year old Nike anti-aircraft missile batteries, and the alternative option would have been a direct U.S. order. The deal will not be finalized until 2006, however.