[GDAMS] [Statement] How long should South Korea stay as an international loser?
Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS)
How long should South Korea stay as an international loser?
With the lowest welfare spending and highest suicide rate among OECD members,
South Korea was ranked as the world’s No. 10 military spender this year and No. 1 arms importer in 2014.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has released the 2015 annual world military expenditure figures today (4 May). There is a country which has been once again ranked as the world No. 10. It is, while being the tenth biggest global military spender, also recorded as the lowest welfare spender with the highest suicide rate among the 28 OECD countries. That nation is South Korea. The South Korean government has been spending 15% of its budget on military expenditure, which is 2.5 times bigger than the OECD average. The South Korean government has been pouring in 6 billion dollars over its acquisition of 40 F-35 fighter jets, the center of controversies over cost and technical problems. This is the reality of our nation, ‘Hell Chosun’, an infernal feudal kingdom.
Korea, breaking its usual record of world’s top 10 arms importer became the world’s biggest arms importer. The annual CRS (Congressional Research Service) report on Arms Transfers, published in December 2015, shows that the South Korean government bought arms and defense equipment worth 7.8 billion dollars in 2014, making it the number 1 weaponry importer in the world. About $7 billion of South Korea’s contracts were made with the United States. Now South Korea has become the most lucrative client of the world’s largest defense company, Lockheed Martin. This has been attributed to the South Korean government’s decision to buy the fighters whose capabilities haven’t yet been verified, even after the US refusal to allow core technologies’ transfer to South Korea. Also, there’s more good news for Lockheed Martin, which is that the US has reportedly agreed to deploy THAAD to South Korea.
Is the huge military expenditure justified? The nation, with an annual defence budget of $9.6 billion, has so far been discovered to have spent $876 million in defence industry corruption by a joint investigative team which was launched in 2014. According to the joint investigative team, there has been a continuous flow of bribes, the falsifying of public documents, shady arms acquisition processes etc. throughout the Army, Air force, and Navy. The 2014 National Defence Annual Reports says that within 10 years defence spending doubled from $4 billion to $8 billion. Anyone can guess that this figure is not healthy at all.
Then have our 630 thousand soldiers been benefiting from this military spending? The biggest item in South Korea’s military budget is labour costs, most of which has been spent on commissioned officers. Only 9% of the military labour cost budget has been allocated to enlisted soldiers, who make up 70% of the entire military force, while the commissioned officers, who only make up 11% of the military force, take 42% of the entire labour costs. The enlisted soldiers are on less than one seventh of the nation minimum income. Is this treatment fair and just?
Some may say that “we can’t possibly reduce military spending while facing the North Korean threat”. The fact that South Korea’s military power is far superior to that of North Korea has already been acknowledged by the government. South Korea has been spending on its military budget an amount almost equivalent to North Korea’s national GDP, without even factoring in expenditure on American army bases in South Korea. Unable to match that amount, North Korea may have had to focus on weapons of mass-destruction. The key to solving the inter-Korean tension is trust-building, not military spending increases. The recent news on North Korea’s 4th nuclear test caused many South Korean politicians to propose developing our own nuclear weapons. Without stopping this vicious competition of military spending and force increases on the Korean peninsula, the necessary dialogue cannot be initiated, hence peace will remain unreachable.
The world of arms, of which American President Eisenhower once said “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” still persists now. This year the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) will issue an estimated $20.1 billion needed to provide humanitarian assistance to countries around the globe, including Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. We need to remind ourselves that last year alone the world spent $1.8 trillion on defence. Just 1% of the total international military spend would make so much difference if it were to be spent on humanitarian purposes and the eradication of poverty.
More military spending will never bring in peace and safety to the world, but rather causes neighboring countries to increase their own military funding, therefore ending up enriching arms companies. Now is the time for us to rethink our priorities. The change we are hoping for will be brought forward by those who cry out “tax money for our lives, not for weapons” and the national assembly, which reviews and votes for bills based on our nation’s voice. The 20th national assembly will have to allocate taxes to help its citizens facing hardship from cradle to grave. On the 5th of April 2016, celebrating the 6th Global Day of Action on Military Spending, we propose to enter into such a paradigm shift in our escape from ‘Hell Chosun’.
April 5, 2016
The GDAMS Preparatory Committee of Korea
For more information
The GDAMS website http://demilitarize.org
The GDAMS Korea website http://gdams.or.kr
The GDAMS Preparatory Committee of Seoul
People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy +82-2-723-4250, firstname.lastname@example.org
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