The military will place female officers in more combat duties that have so far been closed to them, a senior official said Thursday.
Boo Jae-won, head of the personnel planning bureau at the defense ministry, said 12 combat branches will be open to female soldiers from 2012 to 2014.
“We will open up artillery and armor branches of the Army to women,” Boo said. “Our plans are to have 7 percent of all officers and 5 percent of non-commissioned officers be women by the years 2015 and 2017, respectively.”
Those dozen branches also include the Air Force‘s air defense and the Navy’s fire control. The ministry said about 5 percent of commissioned officers and 3 percent of non-commissioned officers were female at the end of last year.
The Korean Woman’s Army Corps was disbanded in the early 1990s, and female soldiers have since been assigned to various branches of the military.
The military hasn’t placed female officers in special operations forces or reconnaissance units.
According to the defense ministry, there are 6,957 female soldiers in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. By 2020, the number is expected to reach 11,500.
All healthy men between 18 and 38 are conscripted for around two years, depending on the branch of the service. Women are not required to serve but may sign up to become commissioned or non-commissioned officers.
In March this year, the Navy and the Air Force announced plans to select female cadets for the ROTC program, following in the footsteps of the Army, which opened ROTC to women in 2010 for the first time since it started in 1963 and selected 60 cadets this year.
Boo said the ROTC will accept more women from now on.
“Next year, the ROTC will pick 260 cadets; 250 for the Army and five each for the Navy and Air Force,” the official said. “Also, female students at all 108 universities with the ROTC program nationwide will be able to apply.”
This year, only six universities plus Sookmyung Women‘s University in Seoul selected female ROTC cadets. They will begin their 28-month service in 2013.