South Korea’s military trains ‘very, very badly’, says former top ROK commander

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U.S. soldiers assigned to Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment and Republic of Korea (ROK) soldiers with 8th Division, 137th Battalion conduct an urban breach with South Korean troops at Rodriguez Live Fire Range , South Korea, March 9, 2016. The training is the second leg of Pacific Pathways. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kwadwo Frimpong/Released)

LANPAC: In harsh criticism of South Korea’s 420,000-strong army, former deputy commander of South Korea’s First Army described “training conditions are very, very poor”, due to turnover high troops each year and the lack of live personnel. fire training.

In-Bum Chun, former deputy commander of South Korea’s First Army, said after his panel on “Deterring Aggression Through Joint and Coalition Preparedness” that he thinks it will take five years to significantly improve the readiness of ROK troops. The key, he says, will be the creation of a corps of senior NCOs – experienced soldiers who can help because of their depth of experience – who can speak truth to power to officers. Today’s Confucian culture makes this difficult by emphasizing respect for hierarchy, but this, he said hopefully, is beginning to wear thin.

Chun, who retired in July 2016, offered some measures to illustrate the problem, citing a 60 percent turnover of troops each year due to Korea’s system of conscription forces. He also said he knew many soldiers who hadn’t had live-fire training in a decade.

“So we just can’t handle the kind of level of training that we used to be amazed that others require,” he told the panel. Many commanders consider live-fire training to be crucial in preparing troops for the realities of combat.

He appealed for help from the United States to help build the NCO corps and rectify the training situation.

Another panelist, a Korea expert from the Center for New American Security, pointed to the Trump administration’s decision to eliminate many military exercises, saying “the joint military readiness of the United States and South Korea is has seriously deteriorated over the past five years”. Duyeon Kim, the Seoul-based CNAS expert, also pointed to the recently defeated “progressive South Korean administration” as a cause for less preparedness.

At the end of the panel, the US commander of the Eighth Army in Korea, Lieutenant General Bill Burleson, made a point of stating categorically that the forces facing North Korea are ready to fight.

“They are flying reconnaissance planes as we speak. They are members of the Patriot crew. These are artillery batteries and missile batteries ready to intervene in minutes. There is a network in place. This is an armored brigade combat team. There are all frontline ROK corps with young men and women watching in North Korea. And despite the challenges you’ve heard about,” Burleson said, “they’re ready.”

It should be noted that Chun praised Burleson “as a godsend because he really tries to understand Koreans.” The bad news is that Chun said he only found “one in 10 US officers” doing this.

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