Military law amendments cause strike in universities
Military law amendments cause strike in universities
  • Son Young-chai
  • 승인 2016.06.03 15:47
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The Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced the gradual abolishment of military exemption for expert research and industrial engineers by 2023, which riled the university community. The MND stated that due to the continuous decline of human resources, the termination of the draft exemption was inevitable.
Since the 1970s, the rule of exemption from mandatory military services promoted the advancement of research and industrial fields of the nation, and currently includes researchers of MND-approved institutes pursuing masters or doctorate degrees. Also, citizens with specific licenses or degrees can sign up for MND-approved corporations and serve the military as industrial technical personnel. Both arrangements have since provided the professional industry with talented individuals.
In response, both the research and industrial communities have expressed their objection with the scientific community presenting a declaration of objection, and the latter publishing a survey of 317 companies with research facilities where 90.4 percent of subjects opposed to the abolishment of the rule. Other government ministries, including the Ministry of Science ICT and Future Planning and the Ministry of Education have also criticized the agenda.
Affiliates of higher-education including students and university officials are also taking a stance against the MND’s decision. Currently the largest student movement is the National Science and Engineering Students Research Personnel Special Commission (NSESRPSC). Integrating the student council of science and technology institutions including KAIST and POSTECH, along with student governments of science and engineering affiliated colleges of major universities, this group has currently held press conferences and released a public statement at the National Assembly building.
“This is a national setback,” they publicized in their statement. “We are indignant of the hasty governance of the MND.”
Last week, the NSESRPSC succeeded in congregating 30 student governments from 10 universities for a signing protest against the MND’s plan.
“It is embarrassing to see such primitive logic from the MND,” said Lee Jae-woo (alias), an undergraduate of Seoul National University. “This decision will restrain our nation’s development in the scientific and technological field, which is a pity for our future.”
Senior authorities of universities are also acting upon their concerns. KAIST even held an emergency meeting to discuss the school’s future measures. Foreboding the decrease in their admission rates it may lead to, the new amendment is troubling to science and technology affiliated universities.
“The abolishment of the exemption will suppress efforts that we have been making to train science and engineering experts to heighten the competitive edge of our nation,” said Park Hyun-wook, a vice president of KAIST.
Their main concern is that this regulation will incline students toward continuing their studies abroad, leaving Korea to fall behind on both research and development. This was made evident in the emergency panel discussion hosted by the Science and Technology Policy (STP) at KAIST, in which the 2011 poll by the Science and Technology Policy Institute was brought up. In the corresponding report, 80 percent of university students from major science and engineering departments responded that they would study abroad or find employment, instead of studying in Korea if the particular exemption was not granted.
“Modern wars are fought with weapons and technology,” stressed Kim So-young, the head of STP. “In an era where technological advances have fed on threats like cyber terrorism, the military services in the scientific field should be expanding, not reverting.”

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