Military expands benefits amid shortage of cadet applicants

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By Jung Min-ho

More opportunities for overseas experience and greater financial rewards, are the government’s new proposals as it aims to expand benefits in order to attract more cadet applicants through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), amid an increasing shortage of future commissioned officers.

The Ministry of National Defense said on Friday that it has decided to quadruple the number of ROTC beneficiaries for its three-week training program in the United States in 2025 from this year’s 40 as part of its efforts to make the ROTC more appealing to potential applicants in universities.

The military also plans to increase the financial incentive for an ROTC applicant to 1.2 million won ($9,000) this year from 9 million won. The annual allowance for each applicant will also more than double to 1.8 million won from 640,000 won.

Speaking to reporters in Seoul, Vice Minister Kim Seon-ho said he hopes that all this will help attract more young people to the ROTC.

“The reasons for the declining application rate indicates that the ministry has been failing to meet their expectations,” he said.

Kim said the military also decided to remove applicants’ standardized test scores from the selection system and instead put greater emphasis on interview performance and college grades. Meanwhile, the military is also attempting to expand the number of schools through which students can apply for the ROTC.

According to the military, the competition rate for the ROTC dropped to 1.8:1 last year from 4.8:1 in 2015. Korea’s rapidly-falling birthrate is one of the primary reasons. Another factor is the steep increase in enlisted soldiers’ salaries over the past two years, which makes the ROTC less attractive for potential applicants in a country where military service is mandatory for all able-bodied men.

 

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