Article 39(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Korea provides that all citizens shall have the duty of national defense under the conditions as prescribed by the Constitution. The Military Service Law mandated by the Constitution prescribes that all male citizens of Korea must sincerely fulfill the military service duties as defined by the Constitution and by Article 3(1) of this Law. This is the conscription system based on universal conscription concept. These two clauses form the basis of the military conscription system of our country, and the compulsory conscription is possible based on these clauses.
Experts say that Korea is the leader in the framework of the conscription laws and the ensuing administration of the Law because of strict enforcement following the laws and regulations. This means that the military service administration system of Korea is very scientific and reasonable. The changes in the military service administration in our country follow the development of the country since the Liberation of Korea in 1945. Just after the liberation, there were too many private militias and similar organizations because of zeal for national defense in some parts of the country. As such phenomena caused social disorder, the U.S. Military Government Office hastened the establishment of the regular armed forces by announcing the Military Administration Order No. 28 on November 13, 1945.
The Defense Headquarters was established within the Military Government Office, and in January 1946, the South Korea Defense Patrol Squad was established. On April 8, 1946, the Ministry of National Defense was established as a result of reorganization of the Military Government Office, but a systematic military service administration was not yet established. With the pullout of the U.S. troops after the establishment of the R.O.K. Armed Forces, the North Korea used to invade the 38th Parallel. This event necessitated the reinforcement of the military defense power, and as the ensuing Korean War increased the demand for military resources, the need for a systematic and organizational recruiting system was raised. Thus, the Ministry of National Defense started the preparation of the Military Service Law for establishing a mandatory conscription system, and announced the Act on the Temporary Measures for the Military Service for the Establishment of the Volunteer Military Personnel to Save the Nation for the purpose of recruiting reserve forces on January 20, 1949. This Act was a temporary act until the establishment of the full version of the Military Service Law.
On August 6, 1949, the Military Service Law consisting of 8 Chapters and 81 Articles and Addenda was announced. This Law details conscription rules, and according to this Law, everyone over 20 years of age must receive conscription physical examination (Article 23), and mayor or head of the provincial district of residence or domicile must send a registration notice detailing the time and place of the registration every year between January and February to the applicable people for the following year’s conscription (Article 25). Also, the Conscription Districts were established (Article 27), and depending on the result of the physical examination, active duty soldiers and reservists were conscribed according to their physical build. (Article 34)
With the effectuation of the Military Service Law, the Ministry of National Defense established the Military Manpower Bureau within the Army Headquarters and the Recruiting District Headquarters in each City and Province for the purpose of conscription administration in a full scale. For the first time in history, a nationwide conscription physical examination was held on January 6, 1950, but due to the cap in the size of the 100,000 Persons Structure Restriction of the Armed Forces, the need for such a regular conscription was deemed unnecessary, and the Military Service Bureau was dissolved on March 4, 1950. Parts of the task were transferred to the Conscription Section of the Army Headquarters Senior Adjutant Office, and others were transferred to the Personnel Bureau, raising a criticism that the conscription administration was insufficient. While the lack of the existence of an organization in charge of the conscription administration was continuing, the Korean War broke out, and demands for the military forces increased dramatically. The government belatedly rebuilt the dissolved organization, and on April 20, a total of the 10 Recruiting District Headquarters were re-established. On top of the bleak situation, the entrance of the Chinese Communist Army in the Korean War paralyzed the conscription administration activities temporarily, but the reclamation of some parts of the South with the counterattack in the spring of 1951 enabled the normal resumption of the conscription administration activities.
With the Incheon Landing Operation, the battle line was extended to the Korean-Manchurian border. To recruit enough people necessary for 300,000 soldiers needed to cover the battle line, the Second Universal Conscription Registration was carried out, and some 200,000 soldiers were recruited in August, just before the Landing Operation.
On August 15, 1951, the Military Manpower Administration with administrative and relief offices along with the Military Affairs Research Center was established within the Ministry of National Defense for enhancing the effectiveness of the conscription administration. Each Provincial Recruiting District Headquarters was placed directly under the Ministry of National Defense. After the truce, the organization was changed a few times, and the Military Manpower Administration in each cities and provinces was established within the Ministry of National Defense under the direct control of the Ministry of National Defense as a result of the amendment to the Military Service Law on October 1, 1962, which later became the current law. Thus, an administrative body was put in charge of the conscription administration.
On August 20, 1970, the Military Manpower Administration became independent of the Ministry of National Defense by the Presidential Decree No. 5281, and the name of City or Province Military Manpower Administration was changed to City or Province Regional Military Manpower Administration of today.
In the 80’s, 3 different laws and regulations regarding military service were merged, and became systematic. In order to select elite soldiers, permanent physical examination districts were expanded and the conscription results were evaluated by computers to modernize and scientifically perform the conscription examinations, resulting in clear and fair conscription administration. Military Manpower Administration is growing as an Administration that serves the people by providing a healthy military service culture.
In 2003, the Administration changed its previous two-bureau formation (Recruitment and Mobilization & Call-up) into three-bureau system (Recruitment, Military Selective Service, and Conscription & Recruitment) as a response to new administrative demands; newly created Personnel & Organization Office, Overseas Resources Division, and Conscription Division to specialize the work process; renamed the Regional Military Manpower Office as the Military Manpower Branch Office to further emphasize regional pride.
In 2005, the Administration improved the expansion of the service period which the minister of Ministry of Defense and improved the irrational things of the issue in order to prevent the right of soldiers on service from being infringed due to the unpredictable expansion of service period. The Administration got rid of service exemption institution of people having overseas permanent residence which can be exploited as dodging means of service duty and thus let enrollment be put off. The Administration abolished homecoming guarantee institution and negligence fee institution which people having service duty assume in overseas trip and thus made overseas talents contribute to the enhancement of national competitiveness in globalization era.