The Ministry of National Defense said Tuesday that it was seeking a 5 percent increase in its budget for next year, with most of the 52.9 trillion won ($44.72 billion) total linked to personnel training and maintenance.
“We will make sure to invest in beefing up our capabilities to counter any security threat, both conventional and unconventional,” the ministry said.
The budget request comes as South Korea continues to deter aggression from North Korea amid stalled nuclear talks, while coping to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
The ministry said it planned to use $29.5 billion, or about 63 percent of the total, for personnel training and facilities maintenance, with $16.9 billion allocated for personnel training and $12.6 billion for facilities maintenance. That would mark the highest on-year growth in a decade, 7.1 percent.
Personnel training includes familiarizing service members with next-generation warfare tactics based on augmented and virtual reality settings, while military bases would introduce the latest technologies for operations.
Service members will also be given protective gear in case of a health crisis like the coronavirus pandemic, while military facilities will be upgraded to promptly assist with enhanced quarantine techniques.
Artificial intelligence technologies will be incorporated at posts bordering North Korea to keep a better eye out for suspicious activity. The military here was embarrassed a month ago by a surveillance camera malfunction that resulted in a defector returning to the North unnoticed.
The military was also in hot water over another security breach when a group of Chinese people sneaked into the country via a sea route.
Of the total, another $14.2 billion is earmarked for arms purchases and other projects to boost the country’s defense capabilities, up 2.4 percent from this year.
Some $5 billion is earmarked for the production of weapons to counter weapons of mass destruction and for better reconnaissance.
Another $5 billion is set aside for major projects including the KF-X project to develop the homegrown fighter by 2026, and for projects involving the production of new K-2 battle tanks.
The rest is earmarked for preparations to take over wartime operational control from the United States.
The budget proposal is set to go through a parliamentary review Thursday for approval. If approved, it would be the second time the defense budget surpassed the 50 trillion won mark for a second consecutive year.