The defense ministry on Wednesday announced additional military reform measures, including allowing female troops to gain greater access to combat positions and strengthening rules on political neutrality.
The measures are part of efforts to flesh out the Defense Reform 2.0 that the ministry unveiled last Friday to create a slimmer yet stronger military in light of uncertain security conditions and evolving transnational and nonmilitary threats.
Among them is a plan to expand the proportion of female troops in combat positions, such as in front-line general outposts, and coastal and riverside patrol units.
"We plan to craft qualification standards that are commonly applicable to both female and male troops for the posts of company, platoon and squad leaders to ensure that female service members will also be assigned to all units without discrimination," the ministry said in a press release.
Before the ministry removed assignment restrictions in January, female troops had virtually been banned from serving in front-line positions. The ministry is currently working on detailed procedures to allow them to assume combat roles.
Under the reform plan, the ministry plans to increase the proportion of female troops in the 618,000-strong military from the current 5.5 percent to 8.8 percent by 2022, when President Moon Jae-in's five-year term ends. As of 2017, the number of female troops stood at 10,097.
The measures also include plans to seek a stronger legal framework to root out political interference by any military personnel through such measures as enacting a special law or improving the existing laws.
The measures came amid a series of political scandals ensnaring former and current military officers, which have eroded public confidence in the armed services and troop morale, and triggered calls for a thorough reform.
"(The ministry) will establish stronger legal grounds by prohibiting political interference and stipulating punishments (for those who order his or her subordinates to engage in political activities)," the ministry said in a press release.
The ministry will also enhance educational programs and develop related content for troops to foster a culture under which the military personnel can carry out their duties free from any political influence.
The ministry, in addition, reaffirmed its plan to double the proportion of civilian employees in the military from the current 5 percent.
"Under the defense personnel reform plan, civilian personnel will be allowed to play a central role in the nonmilitary sector, such as logistics, administration and education," the ministry said.
"The soldiers in the posts, which are to be replaced by the civilian staff, will be transferred to the combat units so as to reinforce combat capabilities," it added.
The increase in the civilian staff will be in tune with the plan to pare down the number of active-duty troops to 500,000 by 2022 from the current 618,000. (Yonhap)