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Military to double soldiers' pay during Park's term

The defense ministry plans to double soldiers' salaries in the next five years to carry out incoming President Park Geun-hye's election pledge, officials said Thursday.

The plan will be reported to Park's transition team on Friday, the first briefing by a government agency since Park was elected in December, along with other major defense and security issues.

The move comes as Park promised to double soldiers' pay, which is set at 96,000 won ($90) on average, to appeal to soldiers and their parents who have long demanded a pay raise for their mandatory service required by law for all able-bodied South Korean men.

The current amount is less than three days of wages when assuming an employee works eight hours a day at a minimum hourly wage set at 4,580 won.

Under the plan, the government will raise their pay by 20 percent every year during Park's five-year term to expand the budget to 1.5 trillion won in 2017. For the first year of her term, 618.4 billion won was set aside for a 20 percent raise scheme.

The military will also report its plan to gradually abolish military reservation areas and reduce noise near military facilities, as part of efforts to reflect Park's pledge to improve people's livelihoods.

"The ministry will report to the transition team its plan to study ways to remove military reservation areas in a bid to ease regulations," a ministry official said. "To reduce noise near military facilities, the ministry will suggest soundproofed walls at shooting ranges and compensation measures for residents who suffer from noise near air bases."

The measures include government purchase of civilian property illegally occupied by the military or returning it to civilian owners, officials said.

Regarding Park's pledge to shorten soldiers' service terms, the ministry will deliver its opinion that the term reduction would weaken combat capabilities due to a shortage of experienced soldiers, according to officials.

According to the ministry, reducing soldiers' terms by three months to 18 months would cause a yearly shortage of about 27,000 servicemen from this year until 2030.

If the military hires 30,000 more non-commissioned officers to fill the gap, it would cost about 700 billion won per year only for their salaries, the ministry estimated. (Yonhap News)

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