The Use of Cell Phones in the Military1)
With increased problems in the Korean military such as mob violence and suicides, allowing the use of cell phones in the military had been the topic of debate for some time past. Many people including members of the Ministry of National Defense assert that use of cell phones would decrease the harsh treatment of lower ranking soldiers just as the use of cell phones in schools reduced bullying. Because military service is mandatory for Korean males, proponents of cell phone use claim that the rights of soldiers should be guaranteed. Those who agree with the cell phone use say security could be tightened through the integrated management system, which is run by the military, thereby limiting shootings with cell phone recordings of incidents. On the other hand, many citizens worry about that by allowing cell phone usage, leakage of military intelligence through GPS trackers could happen. These people also fear the loss of comradeship caused by a decrease in time for bonding and unity. They point out the loosen relationships will lead to weaker fighting by troops. With the two sides strongly voicing their opinions, a ‘Use of Cell Phones in the Military’ policy was put forth in April 2019. Soldiers in the military are allowed to use their cellphones only once training for the day is complete, and that is generally from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends.
After two months of cell phone use, how do soldiers and their family feel about the policy now. Most soldiers are satisfied with the policy, and parents said they are able to lighten their worries by getting a daily call from their sons. Private Yoon Werak, who is serving in Inje-gun, Gangwondo, said, “The new policy is totally beneficial. The greatest benefit is that I can communicate with outside and learn what is going on fast, so time here in the military is passing quickly. However, there are disadvantages, too. Because we are able to use our cell phones, we are talking to each other much less. Also, we tend to waste time scrolling on the phone instead of doing productive work like studying.” Though there is still a strong negative view towards the policy, a majority of the soldiers and their parents are satisfied with new policy. Ministry of National Defense said, “If we break away from the old perspective and increase autonomy for soldiers, responsibility will automatically follow.” If all soldiers heed security and keep unity among their troops, the use of cell phones by soldiers will have positive results.
1) Chang Youngrak, “Will Use of Cell Phones in Military Really Make Korean Military Undisciplined?” Edaily, January 19, 2019