South Korean marines arrive at the South Korea-controlled island of Yeonpyeong, near the disputed waters of the Yellow Sea, on April 12, 2013. S(JUNG YEON-JE / AFP)
SEOUL — South Korea planned to reduce the number of troops to 500,000 by 2022 as part of efforts to tackle a demographic change, the Ministry of Economy and Finance said Wednesday.
The Ministry of Economy and Finance said the number will be reduced to prepare for a change in modern warfare and the falling number of those capable of serving in the military
The ministry said in a statement that the number of soldiers will be decreased to about 500,000 by 2022 to prepare for a change in modern warfare and the falling number of those capable of serving in the military.
According to a 2018 defense white paper, the country had 599,000 troops as of last year.
The number of those capable of enrolling in the military was forecast to decline to 225,000 in 2025, before dropping to 161,000 in 2038. The figure was 360,000 in 2016, according to Yonhap news agency report.
Instead of the scaled-down troops, the military planned to focus on a science and technology-based strategy using weaponized drones, reconnaissance satellites and unnamed aircraft.
The move came amid the ongoing demographic change, caused by the aging population and the low birth rate.
The total fertility rate, which gauges an average number of children a woman bears during her lifetime, reached a record low of 0.98 in 2018, lower than the replacement level of 2.1 required to keep the country's population at the current 51 million.
The country's population was expected to reduce to 39 million in 2067, according to Statistics Korea estimates.
Meanwhile, the ministry said it will review the measure to make naturalized South Koreans subject to the compulsory military service. Currently, naturalized South Koreans can serve in the military if they choose.
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