The Ministry of National Defense on Friday requested a 40.87 trillion won ($35.1 billion) defense budget for next year, marking a 5.3 percent increase from 38.8 trillion won in 2016.
The boosted budget plan encompasses plans to establish missile defense systems against the North Korean missile threats -- which is also the key component of the annually announced five-year defense plans -- and to bolster welfare of the troops.
According to the budget request submitted to the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, the ministry plans to spend 12.48 trillion won on enhancing its defensive capabilities, up 7.2 percent from this year. About 1.6 trillion won will be spent specifically on establishing the Korean Air and Missile Defense and Kill Chain systems against the North’s ballistic missiles, aimed to be complete by the mid-2020s.
The indigenous defense system is part of Seoul’s plan to boost its self-defense capacities before South Korea’s regains wartime operation control of its troops from Washington. The OPCON transition, originally slated to take place in 2012, was delayed multiple times before the allies agreed on a conditional transfer around mid-2020s.
About 7.8 percent of the budget is allocated to research and development, including the ongoing KF-X project to develop the country’s first homegrown fighter jets.
The ministry also vowed to take care of the mental health of the conscripted soldiers by increasing the number of counselors from 369 to 406, and running a psychotherapy camp. It also raised soldiers’ salaries 10 percent, which means in the case of corporals, their 178,000 won monthly wages will be hiked to 195,800 won.
Other plans include completing fortification of the military camps located in the islands near the de facto maritime inter-Korea borders in the West Sea and paving some 57 kilometer of road for strategic purposes.
The Defense Ministry said it will coordinate with the Finance Ministry to confirm the budgets, which will be presented to the National Assembly for approval early September.
By Yoon Min-sik