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S. Korea advised to double number of marines to counter N. Korea

All Headlines 11:11 December 06, 2010

By Lee Chi-dong

SEOUL, Dec. 6 (Yonhap) -- A presidential security panel proposed Monday that South Korea more than double the number of its marines, a core force in defending the country's western border islands, and reverse the ongoing reduction of mandatory military service period for all armed forces, sources said.

The policy suggestions, reported to President Lee Myung-bak, came after North Korea's Nov. 23 deadly shelling of Yeonpyeong Island close to the border between the two Koreas in the Yellow Sea. The deadly attack killed two marines and two civilians, and put the government under renewed pressure to plug security loopholes already laid bare in the sinking of a South Korean naval ship in March by the North's sudden torpedo attack that left 46 sailors dead.

The Commission for National Security Review, launched after the ship sinking, said South Korea should turn the Marine Corp into "Rapid Reaction Force" and increase the number of marines to around 12,000 from the current 5,000 by creating another division, the sources said, asking not to be named before a formal government announcement on the report.

The commission also called for restoring the 24-month military service period, according to the sources.

South Korea has been curtailing the period under the "Military Reform Plan 2020" crafted in 2005 by the former Roh Moo-hyun administration, which sought to ease military tensions on the peninsula by engaging the North.

The military service term is highly sensitive in a country where all male adults who are physically and mentally healthy are obliged to serve in the military with a monthly pay of about US$100.

The panel also recommended reinstating advantages for those who served in the military when hiring civil servants and public firm employees, a system abolished in 1999 following strong protests against it by women's rights groups, the sources said.

lcd@yna.co.kr
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