The government's efforts to improve the general conditions in military camps have been long-standing. The establishment of the Cyber Knowledge Information Room that gave soldiers access to the Internet was a revolution itself from the viewpoint of the military. Since 2018, the government decided to take a step further on this issue—allowing soldiers to legally use smartphones in camps.
On March 8, 2018, the Ministry of National Defense announced the 2018 to 2022 Military Welfare Master Plan, enacting diverse policies that could allow soldiers to undergo their military service in a better and more comfortable environment. Out of all the policies, the use of smartphones was given a trial run in some military camps. Since then, soldiers have been allowed to use the device during designated breaks and after completing their daily work. Not only were they permitted to use the internet, but they were also allowed to contact their families and friends using the devices without any restriction.
The country should not take away this basic human right—communication. A democratic society has to ensure its citizens to have civil liberty, regardless of their age and position. Soldiers should not be an exception. Those working to protect the country should not be given limited freedom; they have the right to communicate with others, and to enjoy their leisure time doing what they want. The use of smartphones in the military was a continuous demand among soldiers—this right should not be infringed by the government.
Despite the intention for its implementation, the policy is currently shown to have several flaws, with accidents caused by smartphone use continuously occurring among soldiers. Several soldiers have been caught gambling through smartphones, which is illegal in Korea. In addition, the possibility of threats to military security is the main drawback to authorizing mobile phone usage. Soldiers could have access to diverse Social Networking Service (SNS) websites and unintentionally show their lives in the camps. In addition, they could surf through illegal websites that could lead to the hacking of military security.
Possible solutions are suggested to address such problems. The government could track down the Internet Protocol (IP) address that soldiers use to find out what soldiers have done with their smartphones as a precaution. In addition, The Virus Prevention System (VPS) could be used to prohibit soldiers from surfing through unauthorized websites. Some may argue that the close scrutiny of the government may cross the line of each individual’s privacy, a fundamental human right. Yet, considering military security, it seems as if the soldiers are left with two choices—to be able to use a smartphone under close scrutiny of the government or to be prohibited from using smartphones.
One could argue that giving soldiers too much freedom could make them interfere with their ability to fully conduct their duties as a soldier. However, the soldiers are simply asking for freedom that could better ensure their basic human rights. According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of National Defense on July 19, 2018, 47 percent of the soldiers claimed that smartphones were most beneficial in contacting their families and friends. Allowing them to reach their families periodically does not make them indolent. Rather, not giving enough opportunities for soldiers to call their families could possibly lower the soldiers’ desire to serve in the military and make them go astray.
The Korean government is continuously allowing more soldiers to use smartphones in camps. Despite the existing disadvantages of the new policy, the usage of such devices is still increasing. In this situation, it is necessary for people to recognize what aspects are beneficial and what are not. If such benefits are magnified and drawbacks are fixed, the usage of smartphones could be a major step in developing the military itself.