President Moon Jae-in disclosed that South Korea's gross domestic product (GDP) was 45 times that of North Korea and that therefore the South should be able to overwhelm North Korea in defense. Then he asked: “I am wondering our armed forces are confident to do so."
President Moon on Monday ordered the South Korean military to further enhance their defense readiness, and called for enough capabilities to counter what he called North Korea's "asymmetrical" threats that include nuclear weapons.
"If North Korea is focusing on developing nuclear and missile capabilities, which are asymmetric capabilities, instead of conventional weapons, we, too, must possess asymmetric countermeasures and that is where the three key defense systems come in," the president said while meeting with defense ministry officials, according to his top press secretary Yoon Young-chan.
The three key defense systems or defense pillars refer to South Korea's own kill chain, missile defense system and massive punishment and retaliation capabilities. The government is seeking to establish such systems by 2020, greatly enhancing the country's defense capabilities.
The president stressed the need to eradicate corruption in the defense industry, noting the country has been and is investing far more than the impoverished North but that many, including military officials, still doubted whether the country can overwhelm the communist state.
"President Moon noted South Korea's gross domestic product (GDP) was 45 times larger than that of North Korea, and based on such figures, our defense capabilities must be able to overwhelm those of North Korea, but asked if (the military) in fact was confident to do so," the Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters.
The president also stressed the importance of defense reform to enhance the country's defense capabilities.
"I want you to strongly push for a reform of the military structure to meet the requirements of modern warfare so that it can quickly switch to an offensive posture in case North Korea stages a provocation that crosses the line or attacks the capital region," the president said, according to Cheong Wa Dae pool reports.
"Also, I want you to further enhance our military's mobility, landing abilities and air defense capabilities," he added.
Monday's meeting marked the fourth of its kind where the president was briefed on the key policy objectives of government offices before lengthy discussions on how to best implement such goals. The discussion sessions are set to last until Thursday, involving a different group of government ministries and agencies each day. The latest meeting also involved officials from the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs.
The president called for a thorough review and in-depth discussions to make sure the country's defense reform moved in the right direction.
"Unless the defense reform is preceded by serious discussions on why it has never been properly carried out despite each and every former government crying out for defense reform, why our military still cannot exercise its wartime operational control and why the establishment of the three key defense systems has been delayed despite North Korea's continued nuclear and missile provocations and advancements, defense reform will again become nothing but a hollow slogan," he said.
The president also urged efforts to improve human rights and living conditions of military conscripts, noting the government and the military were responsible to their parents for their safety.
All South Korean males are required to serve 21 months in the military. The Moon Jae-in administration has pledged to cut the time of service to 18 months.