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South Korea cracks down on draft-dodger advice sites

Robots can't do it all, say generals

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The South Korean defence ministry has cracked down on web-assisted draft dodging, according to reports. The country's military depends heavily on conscript manpower, but service is unpopular and there are various loopholes through which young men can avoid it.

According to an AFP report yesterday, South Korean defence officials have contacted hosting companies and insisted that offending sites be taken down.

"We have sent official letters to major internet portals such as Daum and Naver to ask for the closure of those illicit websites," said ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-Gi.

All able-bodied South Korean men are theoretically liable for a two-year hitch, which helps to keep the republic's armed forces manpower at around 680,000. There are also more than 29,000 American troops stationed in South Korea to help the southerners garrison the Demilitarised Zone separating them from the totalitarian north.

North Korea is perhaps the most powerful of the so-called "rogue states", with armed forces over a million strong and an arsenal of ballistic missiles. These last might soon threaten even the continental USA, and the north is also thought to be developing usable nuclear weapons.

Despite this fairly serious threat, South Koreans normally prefer that somebody else guard the walls, and draft dodging is reportedly endemic. There is an exemption for those who work for 34 months or more at companies nominated by the government as being economically critical, and this is widely abused. AFP says "sons of the rich and powerful" bribe their way into the listed firms.

Even if the South Koreans can arrest the tendency to bunk off time in uniform, demographic trends indicate falling military manpower in future. More automation efforts, such as the Samsung SGR-A1 automated gun-bot, may be deployed in future. ®

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