Homeland Reserve Force
The ROK Army is in the developmental stages of transitioning its strategic Reserve forces into an operational, ready Reserve force. There is a two-year, mandatory military obligation in South Korea, and a follow on four-year Mobilization Reserve service and then next 4 years as Homeland Reserve. But these Reserve components are not really operational, with reservists receiving only a few days of training each year. The reservists do not appear to train as units, and are mainly equipped as straight-leg infantry.
The status of homeland reserve forces in 2015 consisted of 1,340,000 with fewer than four years of Inactive Duty and 1,410,000 with more than five years of Inactive Duty. The number of reservists is 2,970,000 as of September 2014, and the reservists are organized into local reserve units in town (eup), township (myeon) and neighborhood (dong), and workplace reserve units. This might be useful to guard rear areas against DPRK commandos, but it would be an act of shear desperation to "reinforce" front line troops with these reserves.
The reserve forces include mobilization reserve forces for each of the armed services and the Homeland Reserve Force, a paramilitary organization responsible for community and regional defense. By 2014 Mobilization Reserve battalions with troops, equipment and supplies had been organized. If large-scale losses occur in the forward divisions and corps during wartime, mobilization supplement battalions complete with troops, equipment, supplies, and ammunition would be deployed to immediately supplement for the losses. According to the 2015 White Paper, by 2016 a total of 168 mobilization supplement battalions would be established in the rear area to be deployed to the forward area during contingencies.
Reservists are classified into either the mobilized reserve force or the homeland defense reserve force depending on their mission. The mobilized reservists are mainly composed of reservists who are in their first to fourth year after being discharged from their active service. They are mobilized as supplemental personnel for the extension and establishment of active service units or mobilized in the case of troop losses to conduct operational missions. The homeland defense reservists are composed of reservists in their fifth to eighth year after being discharged, and they conduct homeland defense operations in designated areas or workplaces.
In accordance with the Military Personnel Management Act, retired officers, warrant officers, and non-commissioned officers are obligated to be part of the reservists until they reach the full retirement age for their respective ranks. For enlisted service members, they are part of the reservists for eight years after they are discharged. ROK citizens over the age of 18 and under age 60 who are not incorporated into the reserve forces can apply to become homeland defense reservists. As of September 2014, approximately 6,300 female reservists and 1,200 special warfare reservists are serving as members of the homeland defense reserve force.
The training of reserve forces is conducted according to status and seniority. Reserve forces are made up of former service members who have been discharged for no more than eight years, and training is offered for volunteers who have been discharged for no more than six years. Training is divided into mobilization training and homeland defense training; the former aims to improve combat capabilities at the individual and team levels, while the latter aims to foster homeland defense capabilities. Officers and NCOs conduct the reserve forces training for those who have been discharged for no more than six years. Camp training is held for three days and two nights per year.
The MND is enforcing the creation of an elite reserve strength to the level of active duty strength to ensure immediate and effective support for military operations in any contingency.
In order to actively respond to various changes such as downscaling of standing forces due to the reduction of military resources, the ROK military builds up strong reserve forces to possess forces able to deter war and strengthen war sustainment capability. To this end, the ROK military develops a range of measures enabling the efficient mobilization of human and material resources during wartime or national emergencies.
The mobilization system is improved to enable immediate combat upon mobilization. There was a plan as of 2014 to amend the United Defense Act to enable the selective mobilization of necessary resources while minimizing the impact on the public and national economy during integrated defense situations such as local provocations, disasters or terrorist attacks. Mobilization supplement battalions are organized under the homeland divisions and the Marine Corps HQ with a full set of elements comprising troops, equipment and supplies to enable timely reinforcement in case of massive losses in forward areas during wartime. To enable mobilization reserve forces to immediately execute missions upon arrival at their designated units, the ROK military is currently test operating a “regionalized resource management system" which designates reserve forces to receive training at the same military unit every year.
According to the 2015 White Paper, a regionalized resource management system would be established for the mobilized reserve forces to improve the mobilization system, and the related statutes would be modified to immediately mobilize the required forces in times of contingency. To shape strong, elite reserve forces, a part-time service system for officer reservists would be established in phases by 2020, and the establishment of a reserve force management agency by 2023 would be actively reviewed to efficiently manage the reserve forces. For the reserve force training sites, 208 battalion-level training sites would be integrated into 44 brigade-level training sites by 2024 to establish a realistic training system using a scientific training system.
Old personal firearms and crew-served weapons owned by the homeland defense reservists are replaced with new models. By 2016, the Carbine rifles that still existed in some units were entirely replaced with M16A1 rifles, and the gas masks and bulletproof helmets necessary for individual protection were acquired 100% by 2017. By 2020, communications equipment will have been improved with new models to make it possible to execute integrated civilian-government-military-police operations, enhancing the homeland defense operation capabilities of the homeland defense reserve forces.
For units with a low organization rate in peacetime to smoothly conduct their missions in wartime, a part-time service system for reserve cadres is used for such units. In peacetime, combat strength is maintained by recalling officer reservists for 20 days a year to participate in resource management and unit training; therefore they can promptly conduct their missions when they are mobilized.
The training sites for mobilization training were changed from separate training sites to the mission conduct area of each unit to enable training to fit realistic situations. In one battalion for each regiment of a mobilization division, units are organized the same as during wartime to conduct Ssangyong training.
To ensure the economic activities of reservists who cannot attend training during weekdays, the weekend training schedule has been expanded. A nationwide reserve force training system is operated in which reservists can be trained at the location of their choice. This is a system to allow reservists to be able to train at reserve force training sites in other locations when there is an occupational or other reason.
Homeland Reserve Force - History
The Homeland Reserve Force was established in April 1968 as part of a nationwide program to increase defense preparedness in the wake of North Korean provocations. In January 1968, a North Korean commando unit infiltrated Seoul and attacked the Blue House in an attempt to assassinate President Park Chung Hee. That same month, two additional North Korean commando units launched attacks on towns on the east coast in attempts to encourage the South Korean populace to overthrow the government. Homeland Reserve Force personnel were given basic training in physical fitness, weapons familiarization, and defense tactics against various types of attacks by enemy forces. In wartime these units would remain close to or in their own cities, villages, or towns, where they would guard roads, power plants, factories, and other potential military targets.
In 1975 the National Assembly passed the Civil Defense Law, which was promulgated to establish organizations in every community to protect lives and property during wartime and natural disasters. Males between the ages of nineteen and fifty who were not drafted for service in the military were recruited for service in civil defense units. In 1980 there were over 90,000 civil defense personnel in the country. By 1990 their numbers were more than 3.5 million. Their missions included air raid defense, search and rescue, and building and road repair.
Between 1968 and 1988, males between the ages of eighteen and forty were eligible for defense call-up duty; there was no clear policy on the age at which a recruit was eligible for retirement. In January 1988, a new policy was instituted that reduced the age-group of the male population subject to service in the reserves: only males who had been drafted for service between the ages of nineteen and thirty-four were required to serve in the reserves. The period of service was limited to between six and eight years, depending on the individual's age at conscription.
The mission of the mobilization reserves was to provide each of the services with well-trained personnel prepared to enter combat as soon as possible in wartime. In 1990 there were 1,240,000 men in the reserves: 1,100,000 in the army; 60,000 in the marines; 55,000 in the air force; and 25,000 in the navy. Most recruits had served on active duty in their respective services and were assigned to a reserve unit upon completion of their term of enlistment. Units in the reserves probably closely resembled active-duty organizations. Mobilization reserve personnel attended regularly scheduled training about one day a month and also participated in an annual field exercise that lasted about one week. Active-duty officers and NCOs were assigned to command and staff positions in the reserves at battalion and higher levels.