The defense is based on close cooperation with the United
States and has a preventive high preparedness in view of the
geographical situation and the ongoing political situation
in North Korea. It has long been organized with general
military duty with an initial service of 26 months (fleet
and air force 30 months). The United States has reduced and
redeployed its 37,000 men stationed in South Korea to about
30,000 men, including an infantry division of 25,000 men and
an air force of 8,500 men with 90 fighter aircraft. Small
(staff and support) units belonging to the fleet and naval
corps are also in place.
The defense of South Korea consists of 687,000 men with a reserve of 4.5
million men and a semi-military organization of 3.5 million
men. To see related acronyms about this country, please check ABBREVIATIONFINDER where you can see that SKR stands for South Korea. Decisions on major reductions and reorganizations are
in particular regarding the reserve. The army of 560,000 men
standing, of which 140,000 are conscripted, consists of
three mechanized divisions, 19 infantry divisions, an
airborne brigade and 60 attack helicopters. The element of
specialty dressing is large; inter alia there are seven
brigades for offensive operations in depth and three
brigades for countermeasures against the opponent's
infiltrations. The fleet comprises 63,000 men, of which the
navy corps is 28,000 men, with 20 submarines, 43 larger and
75 smaller battleships and ten amphibious vessels, etc. The
navy has 16 combat aircraft and eleven armed helicopters.
The Marine Corps is organized into two divisions. The Air
Force comprises 64,000 men with 540 fighter aircraft and a
state-of-the-art robotic air defense. Semi-military security
forces for mainly coastal surveillance amount to 4,500 men.
The equipment is modern and of domestic and American origin.
Defense costs have decreased from 5.1 to 2.5% of GDP in
1985-2006. The tendency is that an increased part goes to
the production of military equipment.
South Korea participates in peacekeeping operations in
seven states as well as with troops in Iraq and Kazakhstan.
Discussion is underway with the US on the take-back of the
units from Iraq. Sweden and Switzerland are part of the
monitoring organization NNSC between North and South Korea
and are located on the territory of South Korea.
South Korea's defense overview
South Korea has public service. First-time service was
reduced in 2018 and is 18 months for the Army, 20 months for
the Navy and 22 months for the Air Force. The total force
figures for South Korea's armed forces are 625,000 active
personnel, with a reserve of 3 100,000 personnel (2018, IISS).
In addition, 9,000 semi-military enter the coastguard, and a
civilian defense of 3,000,000 semi-military. The US has a
base and a strength of 28,500 stationed in the country.
The army has a workforce of 490,000 active personnel.
Heavy equipment includes 2514 tanks (1484 K1, 100 K2, 850
M48 and 80 T-80), 540 storm tanks, and 2790 armored
personnel vehicles. In addition, the army has 595
helicopters, of which 96 combat helicopters (60 Cobra and 36
The Air Force has a workforce of 65,000 active personnel.
Material comprising 174 fighters of a F-5 Tiger II, 336
combat aircraft (59 F-15 Eagle, 163 F-16, 50 FA-50, 60
Phantom II, and four F-35 Lightning II), four AWACS
aircraft, four SIGINT aircraft, 24 reconnaissance aircraft,
38 transport aircraft, 183 training aircraft (of which 80
T-50 can be used as light fighter aircraft), 49 helicopters,
and 100 light and at least three medium- heavy drones.
The Navy has a staff of 70,000, including 29,000 Marines.
The fleet includes 22 tactical submarines, one
amfibiekrigsskip of Dokdo class, three cruisers, six
destroyers, 17 frigates, 32 corvettes, 69 patrol boats, nine
mine sweepers, one mine-layer, four dock landing ships, 26
landing craft, and seven supply and support vessels. In
addition, the Navy has 16 P-3 Orion patrol aircraft, five
light aircraft, 49 helicopters, and 100 tanks.
The Coast Guard has a personnel force of 9,000
semi-military, 81 patrol vessels, eight landings, six
aircraft, and 14 helicopters.
In 2018, South Korea participated, among others, in the
UN operations in Lebanon (UNIFIL) with 335 personnel, and in
South Sudan (UNMISS) with 273 personnel and two observers.
South Korea's foreign policy
South Korea's foreign policy is strongly influenced by
its relations with North Korea, and is particularly focused
on international measures to halt the North Korean nuclear
weapons program. In 2008, President Lee Myung Bak reiterated
that the alliance with the United States, which in a defense
agreement guarantees South Korea's security, is the very
cornerstone of the country's foreign and defense policy.
USSR and China
South Korea has long banned all relations with communist
countries, but this was softened by the so-called "northern
politics" of the late 1980s. In 1990, the country gained
diplomatic relations with a number of North Korea's allies
in Eastern Europe, including the Soviet Union. In 1992,
South Korea gained diplomatic relations with China, and
trade between the two countries expanded greatly. In 1993,
one third of all South Korean investment went abroad to
Since 2003, South Korea has been one of the parties to
the so-called six-party negotiations aimed at stopping North
Korea from ending the nuclear weapons program. In June 2007,
South Korea resumed food aid to North Korea after Pyongyang
announced its willingness to shut down the country's largest
nuclear reactor. This year, 400,000 tonnes of rice were sent
along with large quantities of heating oil. Emergency aid
from the south had been interrupted after North Korea had
launched new long-range rockets in 2006.
After bitter rivalries, South Korea and Japan agreed on
the 2002 World Cup event, which improved a previously
strained relationship. In 2005, however, an emotional
conflict arose again over the archipelago of Dokdo, in Japan
known by the name Takeshima.
The United States and the wars in the Middle East
In February 2004, Parliament passed a contentious
proposal to send over 3,000 soldiers in support of the
United States Coalition in the Iraq War. The government did
not turn down when a South Korean interpreter was abducted
and later beheaded. The United States, for its part,
announced major changes to its military presence on the
Korean Peninsula: US forces were reduced from their previous
level of 37,000 to 29,000 men in 2009. US troops in advanced
positions at the DMZ border zone were relocated to rear
lines further south. The troop reductions were linked to the
situation in Iraq/Afghanistan. Under President Roh Moo
Hyun caused the dispute over North Korea's nuclear weapons
program to cool relations between Seoul and Washington. The
Roh government was anxious that the United States would push
Pyongyang for strong, thus triggering harsh reactions from
Until 2012, the United States still had command of its
own and South Korean forces in a possible war situation. In
2012, this commanding authority switched to South Korea's
With the defense alliance with the United States as the
basis, South Korea sent military personnel to both Iraq and
Afghanistan. In July 2007, 23 South Koreans from a Christian
relief organization were taken hostage by the Taliban in
Afghanistan. Two of the hostages were killed during a
lengthy negotiation process. 21 were released after South
Korea had agreed to withdraw its military personnel,
totaling about 210 engineering and sanitation soldiers, from
Afghanistan. South Korea denied a claim by the Taliban that
ransom of $ 20 million had also been paid. Since June 2008,
South Korea has had a small field hospital in Bagram outside
From 2004, South Korea had the third largest troop
contingent in Iraq (after the United States and the United
Kingdom); mostly 3600 military personnel. During 2007, the
force was reduced to 1100 men, and the rest withdrew in