PSPD in English Peace/Disarmament 2015-04-13   1018

[GDAMS] [Statement] Our Taxes on Social Welfare instead of on Weaponry



Joint Statement of the National Assembly and the Civil Society for the 5th Global Day of Action on Military Spending

Our Taxes on Social Welfare instead of on Weaponry


Today on the Global Day of Action on Military Spending, we stand here to be with about 320 organizations from about 70 nations around the world. We should reflect on our reality that peace and safety of citizens worldwide are far from being established even when an astronomical amount of money is spent on military. We demand that our taxes be spent on restoring social justice and building a sustainable and peaceful world. This year, marking the one-year anniversary of the Sewol-ferry tragedy, voices desiring a safe nation have grown louder than ever, and the criticism of the ineffective investment in defense industry in the name of ‘national security’ is also growing stronger. It is time to change the priorities of the national policy and shift the focus from materialistic national security and military buildup to safety of people and peaceful cooperation.

According to ‘Trends in World Military Expenditure, 2014’ published by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the worldwide military spending last year amounted to 1.8 trillion dollars (about 1,968 trillion won), a little less than the last year’s. Korea entered the top 10 for the first time last year and ranked 10th this year. 

Korea’s military spending in 2015 amounts to 37.456 trillion won, increased by about 4.9% or 1.7504 trillion won from last year. This is excessive, taking up 14.5% of the government budget. 

While a large sum of military spending is being spent, our society is becoming more extremely socially polarized. Uneasiness from everyday life caused by issues in education, child care, health care, and housing encroaches on our lives, but welfare budget to expand social safety net is not nearly enough. The total amount of university student loan is now over 10 trillion won. The university tuition could be subsidized and cut by half if we decide not to use 7 trillion won of budget on purchasing 40 fighter aircrafts, F-35’s, which are the most ineffective and unreasonable among the military weapons to be purchased from the U.S. by the Korean army. 1,400 public daycare centers, which President Park Geun-hye promised to provide during her presidential campaign but failed to fulfill, could be built with 880 billion won of budget set aside for 4 unmanned aerial reconnaissance drones called ‘Global Hawk’. Also the budget deficit of 65.5 billion won in 34 local medical centers could be covered for the next 90 years if we do not spend 6 trillion won on operating and maintaining Global Hawk’s. Students in South Gyeongsang Province, who had to put up with such remark “a school is not the place you come to eat”, could have school lunches for free for the next 30 years if 3.3415 trillion won of budget is not spent on the cluster bomb units and the multiple launch rocket systems, both of which indiscriminate murder weapons banned by international law. All the firefighting equipment which is old to such an extent as to threaten the lives of firefighters could be replaced if we do not spend 1.5233 trillion won on purchasing interceptor missiles such as PAC-3. In retrospect, what we lack is not the budget. Where we allocate finances is important. We should face the threat to our lives, and reprioritize the budget.

How about the Sewol-ferry tragedy? We had to witness 304 people being buried at sea because the country, which spends about 35 trillion won every year to protect citizens from outside threat and ranks 10th in military spending, did not have basic rescue equipment. The Blue House National Security Office denied being the so-called “control tower” for the Sewol-ferry disaster. If so, for whom is the national security if the disaster which could have resulted in deaths of 470 citizens is not a matter of national security? Moreover, the Tongyeong naval rescue ship which proved to be utterly useless at the time of Sewol-ferry disaster showed rampant corruption in the nation’s defense industry. If we were to talk about society after the Sewol-ferry tragedy, we should start by dealing with this glaring contradiction.

Someone might raise a question about decreasing the military expenditure when there is a serious threat from North Korea. South Korea spends an amount, almost equal to North Korea’s GDP, on military. This amount does not even include the military spending by the United States Forces Korea. North Korea is obsessed with weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear weapons because it knows its military spending is no match for South Korea’s. Thus it is not a matter of amount of military expenditure, but a matter of trust.

In the East Asian region, there is a fierce competition on military spending among countries such as the United States, China, Russia and Japan. Some claim that South Korea should increase the military spending in order not to fall behind these nations. However, South Korea, as a middle power country responsible for initiating a peaceful unification on the Korean peninsula, should avoid confrontation based on South Korea-the U.S.-Japan military alliance but should demonstrate leadership for peace, cooperation, coexistence and common security. The recent controversy over the U.S. deploying a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defenses in South Korea directly shows ‘Asian paradox’, the disconnect between deep economic interdependence and a serious conflict in military diplomacy. 

There are 20 nations worldwide whose military expenditures take up over 4% of their GDP’s in 2014. This number is greater than that in the early 1990’s right after the Cold War. If the world had spent even 5% of its military spending on combatting poverty, we could have realized the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that promised to halve global poverty rates by the year 2015. However as the world went through two great wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the promise could not be kept. Korean government also promised to provide 0.25% of its GNI as Official Development Assistance (ODA) by the year 2015 to eradicate poverty but it allocated vastly insufficient amount and ended up breaking its promise to the international society. The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which is to be proposed in September, 2015 cannot be achieved without fundamental changes and reflection on military expenditure in each country.

The 5th Global Day of Action on Military Spending should not be the anniversary full of empty promises but should be a milestone to change. Thus, to the government and citizens of Korea which ranks 10th in military spending in the world and ranks last in welfare spending among 28 OECD countries, we suggest the following:


1. We demand that the military spending be reduced to alleviate social bipolarization, to expand social safety net, and to build safe society without disasters. Increasing military spending means taking away other opportunities under a limited government budget. Finances obtained by decreasing military expenditure should be used to remove any urgent threats that citizens face in their daily life.


1. This year, the 70th anniversary of the division of Korea, we demand that the efforts be put to end the Korean war and create a peace regime. The Korean government should reflect on the large amount of direct and indirect expenses spent to keep the unstable armistice regime during the past years. The nuclear threat in the Korean peninsula, which is the main reason behind the increase in the military spending, is also the result of this armistice regime and arms race. We should devise measures to recover mutual trust and start conversations instead of purchasing offensive weapons and increasing military expenditure every year. The first step towards achieving this is to lift the May 24th measures which stands between the inter-Korean relations. 


1. We express our deep concerns over the situation where the preparation for war comes before peace and where military alliance comes before cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. We demand that Korea put efforts to change relations based on various disputes and military conflicts into cooperative ones. Appealing to the military means or strengthening military alliances to antagonize a specific country cannot resolve the conflicts. We should protect the Japanese pacific constitution, a bastion of peace in East Asia, and should not allow the right of collective self-defense. We should not allow the deployment of the U.S. missile defense system in South Korea and break away from the South Korea-U.S.-Japan military ties.


1. In order to establish peace we need participation of citizens and solidarity of people across borders. A mature sense of citizenship is more effective than any weapons to protect the community. Understanding each other and cooperation across borders are  faster ways to solve conflicts than using fighter aircrafts and missiles. We should not stand by and watch the government make decisions on whether a nation exaggerates an outside threat it claims to exist, and on whether our taxes should be used for purchasing military weapons or for building a sustainable society. Decisions on and execution processes of national security matters, including conclusion of various security treaties, development of military cooperation, execution of military exercises, and purchase of expensive and offensive weapons, must be transparent and controlled democratically, considering their enormous effects on society. Priorities in foreign policies and national security policies should be determined by citizens as it is done in other fields. 


Disarmament is not a story of a distant future but an imminent and real issue. We demand that the government, the national assembly and all the citizens show wisdom to establish peace together. 



April 13, 2015
Participants of the 5th Global Day of Action on Military Spending



For more information

The GDAMS website

The GDAMS Korea website
The GDAMS Preparatory Committee of Seoul
People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy +82-2-723-4250,


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