The military on Thursday launched a 1,000-strong unit dedicated to overseas deployment, aimed at supporting peace-keeping operations conducted by the U.N. and other multinational forces.
The soldiers belonging to the International Peace Supporting Standby Force will be trained to be immediately dispatched abroad within one month after a mission is given to them, officials said.
Some 350 people, including Army Chief of Staff Gen. Hwang Eui-don participated in a ceremony marking the launch of the unit, also called the Onnuri Unit. “Onnuri” means the whole world in Korean. Army Col. Baek Seon-jae leads it.
“In order to effectively deal with a variety of deployment demands from the international society, we have established it. The establishment will be a significant, historic turning point for the rising of the national fortunes,” Gen. Hwang said during the ceremony at the Special Mission Group of the Special Warfare Command in Incheon.
“The unit needs to be fully prepared through practical training and education so that it could be swiftly deployed whenever a demand for it occurs,” Hwang added, underscoring that the launch of the unit was part of the country’s efforts to play a global role commensurate with its standing in the international community.
The soldiers of the unit will receive basic tactical trainings needed for overseas operations. When a mission is given to them, they will learn the language and customs of the country they will be dispatched to, officials said.
Separately, the Army has two other units to back up the unit. One is comprised of 1,000 special forces, and the other is made up of 1,000 non-combat troops, including engineers, medics and logistics personnel.
South Korea has been seeking to expand its global role.
It has sent some 240 troops to the earthquake-stricken Caribbean nation of Haiti in February. It is also set to dispatch a total of 320 troops to Afghanistan to help rebuild the war-ravaged country. In March last year, it also deployed a special contingent to join the international fight against piracy in Somali waters.
By Song Sang-ho (email@example.com