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[Midterm Defense Plan] Republic of Korea To Spend 270 Trillion Won By 2023 To Construct a “Strong Military”

Republic of Korea plans to spend 270.7 trillion won from 2019 through 2023 with the aim of building “strong security, independent defense.” 94.1 trillion won will be spent on improving defense capabilities. 

On January 11th, the Ministry of National Defense announced the “2019-2023 Midterm Defense Plan,” which will serve as a roadmap to building and managing Korea's military power over the next five years. The midterm plan has been made with a focus on constructing a strong military to back up by force efforts to foster “lasting peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula” in keeping with the Moon Jae-in government’s powerful will to reform defense, according to the ministry. 

Under the midterm plan, the average annual rate of increase in defense spending amounts to 7.5 percent over the next five years. This is a dramatic increase when compared with the annual average of 4.9 percent over the last decade.


The ministry has devised a midterm defense plan, including the Defense Reform 2.0 cost, in order to build the strong defense capabilities that will enable it to effectively respond to any treats in an uncertain security environment. Of the total defense spending, which amounts to 270.7 trillion won, 94.1 trillion won will be spent on improving defense capabilities and 176.6 trillion won on force management.


“The ministry has reasonably readjusted the force management cost by redesigning the personnel management structure and enhancing operational efficiency,” a ministry spokesperson explained.


The force management cost amounts to 31.3 trillion won, which accounts for 67.1 percent of this year’s total defense spending; this is planned to be reduced to 63.5 percent (39.3 trillion won) in 2023. Its rate of increase is 5.8 percent, which is lower than the average annual increase rate of defense spending (7.5%). 

The cost of enhancing defense capabilities accounts for 32.9 percent (15.4 trillion won) of this year’s total defense budget. That proportion will be increased to 36.5 percent (22.5 trillion won) in 2023. The cost of enhancing defense capabilities has seen an average increase of 10.8 percent each year, which is higher than the overall increase in the amount of defense spending. “We have invested intensively in enhancing defense capabilities in order to lay the foundation for strengthening our independent defense capabilities,” the ministry said. 

“As ensuring a secure defense budget is necessary to successfully push forward defense reform, we will strive for smooth reflection of the planned finances to the yearly defense budget formation through close discussions with national fiscal authorities.” the ministry said. 

Before the announcement of the midterm plan, the ministry renamed the “Korea-style three-axis system,” a bedrock scheme to counter North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, as the “system to respond to nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD).” 


The ministry has also adjusted the programs comprising the three-axis system by changing their concepts; the Korea Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) is now the “Korea-style missile defense” program, Kill Chain is “strategic target strike” and Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation (KMPR) is “overwhelming response.” 


Regarding the renamed concepts which have been reflected in the midterm plan, an official from the ministry said that the new concept – the system to respond to nuclear weapons and other WMDs – is an attempt to extend the scope of application in the existing Korea-style three-axis system.


“The biggest change to Defense Reform 2.0 is the extension of the response range; from a response dependent on North Korea’s threats to a response to the full range of threats. In the mid-to-long-term perspective, we will continue to develop the defense area to prepare against potential threats in the future,” the official explained. 


“Along with such extension in the capability development system, we have also developed the concepts of conduct of operations, which is expressed as 4D (Detect, Decide, Defend, and Defeat). We have a plan to develop operational capabilities using the extended and segmented concepts,” he said. “Related programs will last, despite the changed terms and concepts,” he also added.

By Su-Yeol, Maeng < >

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