We read with interest about how a declining birth rate in South Korea has become a national security issue for that country’s military. Why is it important?
Because South Korea has as its neighbor North Korea, which wants to be a world military power with atomic weapons. North Korea has never taken its eyes off of the south part of Korea. The North started the war with the South in 1950 by invading the South, which resulted in United Nations forces (mainly the U.S.) responding in a peace-keeping mission that ended in July 1953 with a ceasefire and the North being kicked out of the South. There never has been a treaty to officially end that war.
The U.S. aided South Korea in its war-recovery efforts that have resulted in the South being a modern, progressive country with a strong military.
According to a story in The Wall Street Journal, South Korea’s active military will shrink to 500,000 personnel by 2022 from the current total of 600,000. South Korea is one of the few countries that still has a draft and has the lowest fertility rate among the developed countries. Women are giving birth to fewer than one child on average, according to the government. It takes an average birth rate of 2.1 newborns to keep populations steady.
South Korea since the war has become westernized in most respects, chiefly because of the American influence. Apparently, that also means in the birth rate category also.
North Korea’s military numbers are an estimated 1.2 million personnel. South Korea is the first line of defense against the North. Of course, American forces still have a major presence in South Korea and stand ready to assist the South if any invasion comes from the North.
The U.S. is as committed to aid the South as it has been since 1950 and after World War II ended in a divided Korea. During a visit to Korea in 2015, the question was asked of a number of South Koreans whether they feared an attack by the North. The stock answer was, “As long as the U.S. stands behind us, we do not fear the North.”
The South already has taken measures to adjust to a drop in military personnel, mainly by the use of modern technology, along with adding more women to its forces.