The monthly pay of enlisted soldiers will increase some 88 percent next year to reach one-third of the minimum wage, the Defense Ministry said Thursday.
The plan is in line with President Moon Jae-in’s campaign promise to eventually increase enlisted men’s pay to 50 percent of the minimum wage.
Next year it will rise from W216,000 to W405,669 for a sergeant, from W195,000 to W366,229 for a corporal, from W176,400 to W331,296 for a private first class, and from W163,000 to W306,130 for a private (US$1=W1,123).
The ministry will have to spend W754.8 billion next year to finance the hike, and W3.606 trillion to reach the 50 percent level.
The ministry also plans to increase spending on canteen meals by five percent from W7,481 to W7,855 per person per day to ensure better health for the young men who serve their mandatory military service, and recruit more civilian cooks.
The government also plans to recruit 3,089 more officers, including 2,915 non-commissioned officers, to make up for the reduction of overall troop numbers.
It wants to hire some 235 civilian weapons engineers to meet restructuring and new arms targets.
The budget also envisages W960.2 billion for the upkeep of the U.S. Forces Korea next year, up about one percent from this year.
The entire defense budget for next year is W43.711 trillion, up 8.4 percent compared to regular rises of about four percent during the Park Geun-hye administration.