The Defence Ministry plans to relieve some 2,500 troops of their military support missions and reassign them to combat positions by 2019, as it seeks to open noncombat missions to civilian staff.
The ministry said Thursday that it had established a basic plan to open some military jobs to civilians for 2015-19.
The sectors include laundry, disposal of military waste, operations of post exchanges and maintenance of military equipment.
The plan comes amid criticism that assigning soldiers for such peripheral missions was inappropriate when North Korea’s military threats remain high and the number of service members is expected to decrease due to the nation’s low birthrate.
By commissioning civilians to manage military supplies and post exchanges, a total of 2,100 troops can be reassigned for combat roles, ministry officials explained.
The ministry also plans to gradually replace soldiers in charge of managing military resort facilities with civilians.
The basic plan also includes commissioning civilians to take up chores such as cleaning barracks and offices and weeding, so as to ensure draftees have enough leisure time.
“We will continue to develop our related policies to effectively use our limited defence resources and troops by actively using civilian resources, with an aim to enhance our combat readiness,” said the ministry in a press release.
The ministry also unveiled a plan to purchase civilian products to maintain what have been strictly military supplies. Some 240 billion won (S$291 million) in defence spending can be saved by 2019 from the commercialization process, the ministry estimated.
“We will unveil our defence supply standards to the civilian firms so that we can obtain good civilian products for military supplies (at good prices),” said the ministry.
To save water and energy, the ministry also plans to invite commercial companies to invest in the projects for some 30 military bases to improve lighting, heating and pipe systems. It seeks to save utility costs of around 59 billion won by 2019.