Military Personnel Expected to Halve Due to Declining Birth Rate
The Reality of the Military Manpower Cliff.. The Disappearing New Soldier Training Unit
Last month on the 26th, the last enlistment ceremony took place at the 1st Division New Soldier Training Unit in Paju. With the end of the enlistment ceremony that day, the 1st Division New Soldier Training Unit will be dismissed. This is because the number of active duty soldiers to enlist has decreased due to the population decline caused by low birth rates. This February, the new soldier training units of three divisions, including the 1st Division, will disappear. Furthermore, the Army announced plans to dismiss the duties of the new soldier training units of all divisions by 2041.
“There are no trainees” Empty military units, even security is ’emergency’
The number of 20-year-old men, which can gauge the size of active duty soldiers, is expected to drop sharply from 260,000 in 2022 to 190,000 in 2037 and 120,000 in 2042. To maintain the current military force, more than 200,000 active duty soldiers need to enlist each year, but experts warned that at this rate, the current military force will be halved by the 2040s. Amid the forecast of a larger military manpower cliff, the disbandment of military units was already underway. In 2022, the 27th Division’s volunteer unit, which had been stationed in Hwacheon, Gangwon Province, and responsible for the central front, was disbanded. The 8th Corps, which had been guarding the east coast, was also absorbed into other units. The shortage of military personnel due to population decline has become a reality.
As multiple units were disbanded and integrated, the sense of crisis over security also grew. The combat area that one division has to take responsibility for is getting wider due to unit integration, but there is a severe shortage of troops. There was even an analysis that North Korea, with a total fertility rate of 1.8, could soon invade.
Who will defend the country, what is the alternative to the manpower gap?
In response, the Ministry of National Defense seriously recognized the severity of the current situation and announced that it would prepare for the reduction of military personnel by developing various unmanned equipment and building a manned and unmanned combined combat system. However, experts pointed out that it takes a lot of time to develop technology, and it is necessary to minimize the growing manpower gap during that time. Separately, in our society, the extension of military service, the transition to a volunteer military system, and the introduction of female conscription are being suggested as new alternatives. Particularly, the debate over the transition to a volunteer military system and the introduction of female conscription is heating up.
In the era of the inevitable military manpower cliff, how should we prepare? This week’s SBS ‘News Story’ looks at the rapidly accelerating situation of military personnel reduction, and explores the alternatives and limitations to overcome it.
By. So Yeon Yoo