The Korea Herald


Military needs more sailors, pilots


Published : Sept. 29, 2011 - 15:51

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Harassment and abuse  by senior officers still  rampant: lawmakers

There will be a serious shortage of military sailors and pilots as the country is stepping up efforts to secure scores of new high-tech warships and aircraft to enhance national defense, a lawmaker claimed Thursday.

Based on parliamentary inspection reports from the Navy, Rep. Seo Jong-pyo of the main opposition Democratic Party said that there will be a lack of around 1,300 sailors as the Navy seeks to deploy around 70 new ships by 2020.

The vessels to be introduced include submarines, destroyers, amphibious landing ships, salvage ships and mine sweepers. For their operations, the Navy needs around 6,300 sailors, but it is expected to have only 4,900, Seo said.

The Navy will also suffer a shortage of helicopter pilots. As it is expected to have some 90 helicopters by 2020, there will be a shortage of around 580 pilots for their operation, Seo said.

“The military should also pay closer attention to bolstering the military manpower who can operate new weapons rather than focusing only on increasing the number of the pieces of military equipment,” he said.

The report came a day after Rep. Kim Jang-soo of the ruling Grand National Party claimed that the Air Force will suffer a serious staff shortage as fighter pilots opt to retire early and join commercial airlines for much higher salaries.

Based on the reports from the Air Force, Kim said that although some 150 pilots are produced each year, the average number of pilots who have left the military each year for the past five years was 162.

To produce a pilot capable of flying a KF-16 fighter jet, the Air Force has to spend up to 10.9 billion won, he estimated.

Meanwhile, the report the Defense Ministry submitted to the National Assembly’s Legislation and Judiciary Committee showed that there are still cases of abuse by senior officers taking place in the military.

The number of cases, which stood at 64 in 2009, increased to 71 last year. It was 35 as of June. While focusing primarily on abuse cases taking place among enlisted soldiers, it has failed to pay due attention to the cases by senior officers, critics argued.

In one case, an army first lieutenant was caught shaving his junior’s face with a kitchen knife this year. He was given a three-month pay reduction. In another, a staff sergeant forced his junior soldier to eat cloves of garlic. He was given a two-month pay cut.

During the parliamentary inspection at the Gyeryongdae military headquarters in South Chungcheong Province, the Army said that it is working on establishing an operational plan to prepare for the possibility of North Korea striking Seoul’s propaganda loudspeakers near the inter-Korean border.

The military has put in place closed circuit televisions, TOW anti-tank guided missiles, the AN/TPQ-36 artillery tracking radar and other pieces of military equipment around the loudspeakers, officials said.

By Song Sang-ho (