Country: Republic of Korea
Delegate Name: Lila Darwiche
Since the early years of the Cold War, national defense spending has been a topic of extensive debate. In the consistent effort to one-up the opposing side, military might has become an agent of intimidation, leading many countries to gradually increase their expenditures to keep up with the times. Along with maintaining the image of power, a higher defense budget provides benefits such as new weapons, more troops, and an overall strengthening of defense. The UN has highlighted the negative impacts of increasing military budgets, claiming that allocations of funds towards alternative sectors like education and healthcare are more beneficial to a nation’s economy. As we discuss possible reduction of military budgets, we must work to maintain a balance that will ensure long-term stability for all countries involved.
A little over 70 years ago, the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed, marking an end to the organized combat of the Korean War and dividing the Korean Penninsula near the 38th parallel. 70 years later, the Republic of Korea still faces the imminent threat of a pending war. The Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ) is the most heavily militarized border in the world. Continuous acts of aggression have prompted the need for additional protection and safety precautions. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea poses an existential threat to the Republic of Korea with its 1.2 million troops and growing nuclear capabilities. Reduction of defense spending would not only cause immediate uncertainty and safety concerns, but also may very well be their long-awaited signal to attack. We do not have the liberty of lowering our guard without compromising the safety of the Korean population.
The Republic of Korea has gradually decreased the percentage of annual military spending relative to its GDP from 6.4% in 1980 to 2.7% in 2022. Despite this, the defense budget has consistently increased from US $3.19 billion in 1980 to US $50.23 billion in 2022. This demonstrates the immense economic growth that the Republic of Korea has undergone in recent years. Our delegation’s GDP has, on average, grown by 4.9% annually between 1988 and 2022. Additionally, the gross national income (GNI) has increased from US $67 in the early 1950s to US $32,661 in 2022. In 2010, the Republic of Korea became the first former aid recipient to become an official member of the Development Assitance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Our delegation is continuously working to offer information on sustainable development, infrastructure, and better services to enhance the overall quality of life for LMICs. The Republic of Korea has made enormous strides economically since the end of the Korean War, all while increasing defense budgets, signifying that reducing military spending, while it may benefit others, is not a necessary change for the betterment of our nation.
As we approach discussions on defense spending in the near future, the Republic of Korea emphasizes the importance of assessing budgeting based on each nation’s individual circumstances. Defense spending is not a one-size-fits-all concept, and significant changes could prove to be very beneficial or detrimental to national security. While recognizing the importance of domestic defense spending, the Republic of Korea also acknowledges the possible benefits of allocating funds in other areas outlined by the UNODA, and looks forward to discussing possible solutions for the benefit of all countries very soon.