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South Korea to cut national service by six months
Seoul | February 05, 2007 6:58:15 PM IST
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South Korea plans to cut the term of its mandatory military service for men by six months to 18 months by 2016, the country's defence minister said.

South Korea, which is technically still at war with the impoverished North, has been planning a troop reduction over the next several years as it turns more to high-tech weapons systems for it defences.

North Korea deploys most of its 1.2-million-strong army near the fortified border that divides the Korean peninsula.

South Korea currently has about 680,000 troops but is looking at a force of 500,000 by 2020, the ministry said.

South Korea' ruling Uri Party has suggested cutting the time of mandatory service, which opposition groups have said is a populist call to gain support ahead of a presidential election in December.

South Korea plans to spend on average 9 per cent more each year on defence until 2010 to upgrade its weapons and equipment as it reshapes its military to leaner and more effective forces.

All South Korean men must do national service unless declared unfit by a military medical tribunal or if they have been convicted of serious crimes.

Top sportsmen or other internationally known Koreans are sometimes excused on the grounds their success is already a national service.

REUTERS DKA RN1636

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