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Defense ministry to cut 110,000 active-duty soldiers by 2022 Updated: 2014-03-07 06:30:42 KST

 Defense ministry to cut 110,000 active-duty soldiers by 2022
The number mandatory active duty soldiers in Korea, currently 633-thousand strong, will be smaller by 2022.
The defense ministry said Thursday it plans to cut 40-thousand troops over the next five years and 70-thousand more between 2019 and 2022 for a total reduction of 110-thousand.
To fill the gap, the number of non-commissioned officers would increase from the current 30 percent to 43 percent by 2025.
To better prepare for the hand-off of wartime operational control currently scheduled for 2015, the military plans to merge two of its three army headquarters and set up a Ground Operations Command.
The initial merger date was set for 2030, but that's now been accelerated to 2026.
In other plans, the Navy will set up a Submarine Command to counter the increasing underwater capabilities of the North, while the Marine Corps will establish a Jeju Unit and Aviation Group to defend Korea's southernmost island.
With regard to the North's missile and nuclear threats, the defense ministry will also re-focus efforts on developing the Kill Chain and Korea Air and Missile Defense systems, which can detect and counter missiles and nuclear weapons from Pyongyang.
The operational target range of high-tech gadgetry, such as satellite-guided missiles and next generation fighter jets, will also get a boost.
Experts say all the changes are being made in consideration of the nation's low birthrate as the military attempts to transition into a more efficient and cheaper force.
The military estimates that it will cost over 201 billion U.S. dollars over the next five years to implement the plan, which represents an average annual increase of 7.2 percent of the defense budget.
Kim Hyun-bin, Arirang News.
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