As early as April, people who have served in the military will get extra credits when they apply for jobs in public sectors, the Ministry of National Defense said Monday.
The measure is expected to benefit mainly men, who spend 21 to 24 months in military camps as their compulsory military duty.
However, the plan is likely to trigger resistance from women’s rights groups and others who claim the extra credit system goes against fair competition in the job market.
According to the ministry, a relevant bill is pending at the National Assembly. The bill grants an extra 2.5 percent on the original scores in written or on-field tests governmental and public organizations hold. A 20 percent quota for those hired through the extra credits was also suggested.
The bill was submitted to help soldiers who complain of being left behind by women during military service. The torpedo attack of the naval warship Cheonan last March and the North’s shelling of Yeonpyeong in November made soldiers even more anxious, said ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok.
“Because they have taken two-year breaks from job searching and other social activities, they feel behind others once they get discharged. They even feel deprived and isolated. Especially after all the defensive incidents they experienced last year, I think people will understand that the soldiers need compensation by society,” he said.
The military authorities are now in the process of persuading and convincing the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Affairs and women’s rights groups, who previously brought a similar law to the Constitutional Court where it was nullified.
The Constitutional Court in 1999 ruled a 39-year-old military credit law to be unconstitutional. The law bound employers, including the government, to give up to 5 percent higher marks to discharged soldiers. The justices said the rule was against the rights of women and disabled people who are not drafted to the military.
However, there have been growing demands for the extra credits to help young men who are reluctant to do mandatory service.
“Sometimes you ask yourself: What did you get in return for spending the best part of your youth for the country?” said a 30-year-old job seeker who wished to be identified only by his last name Jang.
The Gender Equality Ministry is continuing to stand against the bill.
“The ministry agrees that the discharged soldiers need appropriate compensation for their patriotism. But the extra credit might not be the only solution: pension, job training and others should be discussed, too,” said ministry spokesman Kwon Yong-hyun. “Besides, the passage of the law is up to the lawmakers,” he added.
“The extra credit is against basic rights of equality,” said Lee Soo-yeon, a member of the Korean National Council of Women. “The Constitutional Court’s ruling means extra credit is unjustifiable. The moderation of numbers or quotas won’t do.”
By Bae Ji-sook (firstname.lastname@example.org)