South Korea will do away with a special rule that exempts science and engineering majors from the compulsory military service to make up for the drop in military manpower.
"Because of a shortage of active-duty soldiers ... the system to allow special exemptions will be completely phased out by 2023," a Ministry of National Defense official was quoted as saying by Yonhap.
At present, all able-bodied South Korean men are required to finish a two-year military service, but a science and engineering student is not obligated to this rule.
"Given the predictions on the local population, the troops will fall short by 20,000-30,000 people annually by 2023," the official said.
In addition, the ministry also plans to downsize the country's other alternative military service system in a bid to prevent the shrinking population from compromising the country's combat power, the official said.
Under the alternative service system, more than 20,000 South Korean men serve in the public service sector instead of joining the armed forces.
"Currently, the country's population has some 350,000 men who are aged 20, but by 2020, the corresponding numbers may drop significantly to 250,000," the official said. "The downtrend is not just a prospect any more but has already become obvious."
In the fight against the diminishing population, the military is also pushing to downsize the size of the country's total armed forces to 520,000 by 2022 from the current 630,000, the official added.
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