Population Cliff Disaster, finally exploded here… The female conscription system is on fire again

This happened on the 11th. Shin Won-sik, Member of the People’s Power, the Military Manpower Administration, and the Voice Association held a ‘Forum for the Development of the Military Service System in the Age of Population Cliff’ at the National Assembly Members’ Hall. It was a place to find out how to solve the problem of lack of military service resources in the era of population cliff.

New female noncommissioned officers are saluting at the ‘commissioning ceremony’ held at the Army NCO Academy. news 1

However, there was an uproar on the Internet. It is known that there was a discussion at the forum that the military service period should be extended from the current 18 months, and that women should also be conscripted.

In particular, the reaction of men in their 20s who served in the military was explosive. While clearly opposing the expansion of the military service period, they actively supported the female conscription system.

As the controversy intensified, the government stepped in to evolve. The Ministry of National Defense emphasized that it is not reviewing the female conscription system, the expansion of the military service period, or the abolition of alternative service at all. The Military Manpower Administration also released explanatory materials and said, “Various opinions have been raised regarding the extension of the military service period, the need for female conscription, and the abolition of alternative service between forums, but these are the personal opinions of the presenters and discussants, and they are not the official position of the government and have not been reviewed.”

The Seongwoo Association, which co-hosted the forum that day, also announced that it would revise the press release to say that the female conscription system needs public discussion and that the military service period extension needs to be reviewed as one of several options.

The extension of the military service period is an issue that came out after the military service period was reduced to 18 months (based on the Army and Marine Corps) during the Moon Jae-in administration, but female conscription has been a hot topic in Korean society for quite some time.

Military service resources in 2042 are one-third of those in 2013

The background of the extension of the military service period and the conscription of women is the demographic cliff.

Korea’s total fertility rate is 0.78 as of 2022. This means that the average number of children a woman is expected to have in her lifetime is less than one.

Last year, at the 45th World Soldier Parachute Championships ( WMPC ) held in Austria, the Army Special Forces female team won a gold medal in the 4-person interaction category. Union

Beyond the low birth rate, the population of Korea has been declining since 2020. The speed is steep enough to worry about the demographic cliff . A population cliff is a phenomenon in which the population distribution appears in an inverted triangular distribution as if the cliff has been cut.

The population cliff leads to the military service resource cliff. This is because the number of men in their 20s enlisting in the military is decreasing. According to Cho Kwan-ho, senior research fellow at the Korea Defense Research Institute ( KIDA ), the number of 20-year-old men has decreased from 376,000 in 2013 to 255,000 this year.

Graphic = Reporter Cha Junhong cha.junhong @ joongang.co.kr

Through defense reform, the Ministry of National Defense and military authorities reduced the number of military personnel to 500,000 and increased the number of executives (officers and noncommissioned officers) and military personnel. In addition, the unit structure was reorganized (force reduction) and reduced from 47 divisions in 10 army corps in 2006 to 34 divisions in 6 corps this year.

A government source worried that “despite various efforts, we do not expect to be able to fill the quota this year.”

The problem is that the problem of military service resources will become more serious in the future. The projected graph of the 20-year-old male population fluctuates from 231,000 to 255,000 between 2026 and 2032, and then drops sharply from 2033. In 2037, the number fell below 200,000 to 187,000, and in 2042, it is expected to reach 125,000, a third of the 2013 level.

A female company commander of the Coast Guard Unit inspects the barbed wire fence. army
The second military service resource cliff is now less than 10 years away. This is the background where voices say that we must prepare even from now on. Conscription of women was considered as an alternative.

Nordic female conscription system with strong gender equality culture

Women’s military service first took place during World War I. There have been cases of women entering wars or battles before, but it was only after World War I that the state systematically recruited women. Women were mainly in charge of supporting duties in the rear rather than fighting in the front.

A female soldier from the Norwegian Special Forces is training to cross-country ski in the winter snow. Norwegian Ministry of Defense

In most countries, including Korea, women can enlist in the military. And in 21 countries around the world, women are conscripted just like men.

Developed countries include Israel, Norway and Sweden. In Norway, men and women share a dormitory (quarter).

Bolivian female soldiers on the march. Ministry of Defense of Bolivia

North Korea also began conscripting women in 2015. In North Korea, both men and women are considered eligible for military service when they turn 17. The maximum length of military service is 10 years for men and 8 years for women.

Benin, Cape Verde, Etruria, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique and Bolivia are among the countries that also recruit women. Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, according to the Pew Research Center. Niger and Senegal are uncertain about female conscription. Sudan and Vietnam have a female conscription system, but in reality only males are conscripted. Myanmar, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, and Portugal do not have peacetime conscription.

Women soldiers of the Labor and Peasant Red Guards and Social Security Forces shed tears at the military parade on the anniversary of the establishment of the North Korean regime in 2021 (September 9). Union

In Taiwan and Denmark, social discussions on female conscription are taking place.

In Northern Europe (Norway and Sweden), there was active support from women in the process of introducing the female conscription system. However, it is unreasonable to simply apply the Nordic case to Korea. Norway and Sweden have a small total military force, and various alternative service systems have been developed. In fact, only a handful of men and women in their 20s enlist in the military. And it is explained that female conscription in Northern Europe was possible because of the gender equality culture.

Israeli female soldiers in camouflage. Israeli Ministry of Defense
In Israel, the length of military service for women (21 months) is shorter than for men (36 months). And the actual female conscription rate is low. So, researchers say, “When South Korea reviews female conscription, the benchmarking target is North Korea.”

Conscription of women up to the Constitutional Court

On April 19, 2021, during the Moon Jae-in administration, a petition titled ‘Please include women in the conscription target’ was posted on the Blue House website. 293,140 people agreed. It is believed to have received fire support from a man in his 20s.

During the ROK-US joint training exercise, a female U.S. Army Corps of Engineers carries and transports wounded ROK soldiers who occurred during the suppression of virtual terrorism. news 1

Regarding the female conscription system at the time, the Blue House said, “Discussion on reforming the military service system is a key issue for national security,” and “it should be judged based on the possibility of recruiting a standing army and military effectiveness in consideration of the security situation on the Korean Peninsula.” “In particular, the female conscription system is not an issue limited to the recruitment of troops, but contains a variety of issues, so it is an issue that needs to be carefully decided after sufficient public discussion, such as public consensus and social consensus,” he said.

“In order for female conscription to actually materialize, comprehensive research on the military service environment and improvement of the gender-equal military organizational culture must be sufficiently prepared in advance,” he added.

It is an answer to the effect that it is premature.

The female conscription system has already been reviewed three times by the Constitutional Court. In the Constitution, ‘all citizens bear the duty of national defense’ (Article 39), but the Military Service Act imposed military service only on men (Article 3, Paragraph 1), which was raised as unconstitutional. However, the Constitutional Court ruled in 2010, 2011, and 2014 that Article 3, Paragraph 1 of the Military Service Act was constitutional.

The Constitutional Court said, “Duty of national defense does not refer only to the direct duty to form troops, such as serving in the military according to the Military Service Act, but also includes the duty to form troops and the duty to obey and cooperate with military operation orders after formation of troops.” In addition, Article 39 of the Constitution states ‘as prescribed by law’, and since this entrusted legislative discretion to the law, the Constitutional Court determined that it was not unconstitutional for only men to fulfill their military service obligations.

The Constitutional Court said, “Men have physical abilities more suitable for combat, and even women with excellent physical abilities may have obstacles in training and combat-related tasks due to physiological characteristics or pregnancy and childbirth.” It is difficult to see that the decision to be obligatory is arbitrary,” he added.

Confrontation between men and women in their 20s over female conscription

In South Korea, women’s conscription is not being dealt with solely to provide an alternative to reducing military service resources. This is because there is female conscription as an extension of the gender confrontation between men and women, especially in their 20s.

A scene from the American movie ‘G.I. Jane,’ about the first female Navy Seals (US Navy Special Forces) member. Buenavista Pictures

Men in their 20s feel more deprived after the abolition of the military bonus system, and think that the system in which only men fulfill their duty is not fair. So, whenever the female conscription system comes up in public debate, men in their 20s tend to lead the discussion.

The political world also came out with a joint conscription system (Rep. Ha Tae-gyeong of People’s Power) and a mixed military service system (Rep. Park Yong-jin of the Democratic Party). However, it is evaluated that this was aimed at male votes after dividing people in their 20s by gender rather than throwing female conscription as a hot topic.

Dr. Kim Shin-sook, who was in charge of manpower policy at the Ministry of National Defense (currently dispatched to education and training), said in 『Korea’s Military Service System through History and Issues』, “The state, rather than whether women were conscripted or not, We need to focus our policies on restoring it.”

Above all, examining the female conscription system or extending the military service period is not a priority in the process of seeking alternatives to the population cliff and military resource cliff.

The current military quota is 500,000. However, this number came out during the defense reform during the Roh Moo-hyun administration. It is necessary to review whether 500,000 people should be maintained in the era of the 4th industrial revolution in the 21st century.

Senior Research Fellow Cho Kwan-ho said at the ‘Forum for the Development of the Military Service System in the Age of Population Cliff’, “Our military has entered an era of chronic shortage of troops.” We need a new response,” he said.

Rather than demanding that the military authorities conscript women and extend the military service period, saying that 500,000 people are needed, and that 500,000 people must be filled, the security situation and threat factors should be taken into consideration. this is the top priority

The number of military personnel can be reduced by applying cutting-edge technologies such as manned and unmanned complex systems and maximizing the use of reserve forces. Jang Tae-dong, head of the National Defense University Reserve Force Center, ordered, “Let’s increase the budget for the reserve force and make about 300,000 mobilization reserve forces and regional reserves as elite as the standing army.”

We need to lay the foundation for women’s military service

It is also a way to lay the foundation for women’s military service prior to the female conscription system.

Female fighter pilots of the US Air Force. US Air Force스포츠토토

The expansion of female reserve forces can be cited as a priority. Until now, if a female officer or noncommissioned officer is discharged, he or she is automatically retired. Women must volunteer to join the reserve forces. Let’s enlist female officers in the reserve until at least the age of 40, just like men.

Let’s open the door to paid volunteers for women as well as men. Allow women to receive basic military training if they wish. And among women who have undergone basic military training, only those who apply will be allowed to become reservists.

At the same time, let’s check and fix the facilities such as the dormitory, work type, and training type.

Female conscription is the last card. This is true when considering whether it would benefit the nation, economy, and society to send not only some men but also some women to the military in their 20s, who have high labor productivity when the population is already insufficient.

There are individual differences, but overall, there is an evaluation that male combat power is relatively higher than female. According to a study by the U.S. Marine Corps, women are twice as likely to be injured in combat than men, men are more agile in tactical movement than women, and men shoot all types of firearms better than women.

According to Dave Grossman, a former U.S. Marine lieutenant colonel, in Israel, where women were conscripted early on, male soldiers became uncontrollably aggressive when they saw female soldiers injured.

In order to mobilize women with this tendency into the military, it would have to be the same situation as when Korea was at the crossroads of life and death. In Ukraine, after the Russian invasion, laws and regulations were changed to require women between the ages of 18 and 60 to register on the military register.

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