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[Noting changes on the fourth anniversary of President Moon Jae-in’s inauguration] Military allows soldiers to use mobile phones...

[Noting changes on the fourth anniversary of President Moon Jae-in’s inauguration] Military allows soldiers to use mobile phones while off duty under Defense Reform 2.0


Outcomes of the fourth anniversary of President Moon Jae-in’s inauguration include:

soldiers are allowed to use mobile phones while off duty, and to go out after duty on weekdays

‘positive effects’ such as adjustment to military life and boosted morale

parental leave by men outstripped women’s in 2020


On May 9, a spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense said “As we mark the fourth anniversary of President Moon Jae-in’s inauguration, it worth considering how the Defense Reform 2.0 initiative is changing the service paradigm. In particular, the initiative has already produced noticeable outcomes in the areas of barracks culture and gender equality, based on principles of autonomy and responsibility.”


Since President Moon’s inauguration four years ago, the ministry and the military have been taking steps forward to address a number of significant challenges Korea must confront, including the demographic 'cliff,' the fourth industrial revolution, and the increasing uncertainty of the strategic environment. Significantly, the ministry and the military have been struggling to pursue change while maintaining the impetus of innovation on the basis of the Defense Reform 2.0 initiative. At the center of this change are Korean soldiers. Based on the belief that soldiers are the driving force of a strong defense, helping our military to exhibit combat power and support peace, the ministry has made various attempts to improve service conditions and build a higher morale.


A significant example is the policy change to allow soldiers to use their mobile phones while off duty. The ministry now allows soldiers to use mobile phones while off duty, including on holidays, so that they can ease the feeling of isolation while on duty, engage in self-development, and make good use of their spare time. The ministry first tested this on four units under the ministry’s direct supervision on a trial basis in April 2018, and expanded it to the entire armed service, excluding troops at guard posts (GP) and soldiers in training, from April 2019. The program took effect on July 1, 2020, and has already achieved noticeable results. A ministry spokesperson said the rate of suicide and desertion have been reduced by 44%, from 27 cases to 15 cases, and by 30%, from 78 cases to 55 cases, respectively, since the program was put into action. These figures indicate that the program had a big effect on adjustment to military life and improvement in satisfaction.


The ‘allowing soldiers to go out after duty in weekdays’ program, which was put into action from February 2019, is another one of main outcomes, even though it is currently on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ministry set the conditions to activate the program for unity activities, visiting parents, self-development, and handling of personal matters, etc. provided that the military's readiness posture is not disrupted. Soldiers went out on weekdays for unity activities, followed by handling personal business and visiting parents. The program has many positive aspects, including communication and unity, morale boosting, and just-in-time handling of personal matters, and has posed no problems with the maintenance of the military readiness posture. Despite some concerns initially that there would be issues related to discipline and the mission performance of troops, no problems have been found.


The gender equality policy is also producing progressive results. Significantly, there was a noticeable change between the year (2017) right before the Defense Reform 2.0 initiative was unveiled and the year (2018) the Defense Reform 2.0 initiative was unveiled. According to a ministry spokesperson, only 329 men in the military took parental leave in 2015, a number that almost quadrupled to 1204 in 2019. In particular, 1115 men took parental leave in the year (2018) the Defense Reform 2.0 initiative started, an increase of 388 compared to the number (727) the year before. With 1204 men taking parental leave in 2019 and 1888 in 2020, there has been a steep rise in the number of men who take parental leave in our military. Significantly, last year the number of men who took parental leave surpassed the number of women (1460) who took it, an important first.


The use of the ministry’s other supportive programs, including flexible work, parenting hours, and parental leave, has also been rising every year. The rise is particularly noticeable among men. Regarding the flexible work program, which allows people to adjust their commute time autonomically, 1554 men used it in 2017, while the number of men who used it increased dramatically to 2412 in 2018, and then again to 2735 in 2019 and to 2939 in 2020. This shows that it has almost doubled during the last three years.


There has been a noticeable increase in the number of men who use the parenting hour program, which was newly launched after the revision of the ‘Enforcement Decree of the Framework Act on Ranks and Duties of Soldiers.’ Only 276 men used the program in 2017, but the number of men who use it has been increasing by more than 3000 men per year, rising from 2237 men in 2018 to 6478 men in 2019 and 9670 men in 2020. The number of workers who use the parental leave program, launched in 2017, is also on the rise, with the number of women using it increasing from 2149 (2017) to 4242 (2020), while the number of men using it was rising even more sharply, from 6479 (2017) to 26,996 (2020). Significantly, 36,972 men were able to spend time with their children by taking parental leave in 2019, a fact that was not influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic.


“The military also strives to establish a human rights-welfare-medical care system that meets the needs of soldiers by offering an annual increase in soldiers' wages, a military discipline education system as an alternative to the confinement system, expanded support for expenses for self-development, support for private hospital bills, reform of the military medical system, and more. We will work to build a barracks culture in which service members’ autonomy and creativity can be respected,” a ministry spokesperson said.

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By Chae-Mu, Im < >


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