The South Korean Army or ROK Armed Forces, is one of the largest standing armed forces in the world. It is composed of the Republic of Korea Army (ROKA), Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN), Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF), and Republic of Korea Marine Corps (ROKMC), together with reserve forces. Many of these forces are concentrated near the border with North Korea. All South Korean males are constitutionally required to serve in the military, typically for a period of twenty-four months.
Created in 1948, following the division of the Korean Peninsula by occupying Soviet and U.S. forces, it was a largely rudimentary force until the outbreak of the Korean War. It was heavily damaged by North Korean and Chinese attacks and in the beginning relied almost entirely on American support for weapons, ammunition and technology.
During South Korea's period of rapid growth, the military expanded accordingly, benefiting from several government-sponsored technology transfer projects and indigenous defense capability initiatives. Currently the ROK Navy has embarked on a rigorous ship-building program with ambitions to become a substantial blue-water navy by 2020. During the outbreak of the Vietnam War, South Korean marines were among those fighting alongside the United States and gained the respect of both the locals and their enemies, earning their nickname as "Demon-hunters" by the Viet Cong.
Today, the ROK military forces are responsible for maintaining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the republic, but often engage in humanitarian and disaster-relief efforts nation wide. More recently the ROK military has began increasing its participation in international affairs, acknowledging its role and responsibility as the tenth economic power in the world in terms of GDP. The ROK military has participated in various peacekeeping operations across Africa, East Timor, and more recently Iraq and Afghanistan.
Modernisation efforts for the ROK military have been in place since the 1980s, and continue to this day. South Korea enjoys of a good mix of avant-garde as well as older conventional weapons. The Republic of Korea has one of the highest defense budgets in the world, regularly making the list of top ten. Its capabilities include many sophisticated American and European weapon systems, complemented by a growing and increasingly more advanced indigenous defense manufacturing sector. The GlobalSecurity.org website states that "in 1990 South Korean industries provided about 70 percent of the weapons, ammunition, communications and other types of equipment, vehicles, clothing, and other supplies needed by the military."
The United States has stationed a substantial contingent of troops in the ROK since the Korean War. The American Troops are stationed in bases, of which most are camps. They are considered camps not for their lack of buildings or support structure; but, in order to represent a lack of permanence for the ROK Government. South Korea also takes part in regional as well as pan-Pacific national military wargames and exercises such as RIMPAC and RSOI.
Military branches :
Army, Navy, Republic of Korea Air Force (Han-guk Kong Goon), Marine Corps, National Maritime Police (coast guard) (2006)
Military manpower - military age and obligation :
20-30 years of age for compulsory military service; conscript service obligation - 24-28 months, depending on the military branch involved; 18 years of age for voluntary military service; some 4,000 women serve as commissioned and noncommissioned officers, approx. 2.3% of all officers; women, in service since 1950, are admitted to seven service branches, including infantry, but excluded from artillery, armor, anti-air, and chaplaincy corps (2005)
Military manpower - availability :
males age 18-49: 12,483,677
females age 18-49: 12,014,462 (2005 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service :
males age 18-49: 10,115,817
females age 18-49: 9,721,914 (2005 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually :
females age 18-49: 312,720 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure :
$21.06 billion FY05 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP :
3% (2006 est.)