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(LEAD) Defense ministry to expand trial program to allow enlistees' mobile phone use

Defense 15:10 May 11, 2023

(ATTN: ADDS more details in paras 6-7)

SEOUL, May 11 (Yonhap) -- The military plans to expand a trial program allowing enlisted troops to use mobile phones on their bases later this year, the defense ministry said Thursday, as part of a broader effort to enhance their welfare.

From July through December, the program will be applied to some 60,000 enlistees, around 20 percent of the total, up from some 17,000 troops involved in its previous round that ran from June to December last year.

Enlistees used to be barred from carrying mobile phones for security reasons, but the ministry introduced the program to explore the possibility of its wider application amid a growing sense that it can help troops touch base with their families and friends and search for information, including about employment.

Under the expanded program, troops will be allowed to use personal phones from a morning roll call, usually at around 6 a.m. or 7 a.m., through 9 p.m. in line with the rules that ensure the use of their phones will not affect their obligations or cause any security issues.

Currently, troops can use and possess phones from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends.

The troops subject to the expanded program do not include new recruits. They are from 45 military units: 14 from the Army, nine from the Air Force, four from the Navy, three from the Marine Corps and 15 military hospitals.

The ministry plans to employ punitive measures for those who flout rules on the on-base use of phones, such as restricting offenders' off-base trips, according to officials.

The ministry also plans to allow new recruits at military boot camps to use mobile phones for one hour on weekends and holidays.

This file photo, taken June 20, 2022, shows a soldier using a mobile phone at a station in Seoul. (Yonhap)

This file photo, taken June 20, 2022, shows a soldier using a mobile phone at a station in Seoul. (Yonhap)


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