The South Korean Military
Since the 1980s, the Republic of Korea (ROK or South Korea) has experienced a dramatic political transformation. On the domestic front, the nation has made the transition from authoritarianism to democracy. It also managed to avert an imminent financial collapse in 1997, and now appears to be well on the way to economic recovery. On the international front, the ROK has been embraced by many of its former adversaries—including China and Russia. Perhaps equally significant, Seoul has adopted a new approach toward relations with its archrival on the Korean peninsula—the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
These developments truly are remarkable, but they cannot alter the fact that the touchstone for the ROK's national security—the DPRK threat—remains. Over 1 million Korean soldiers remain deployed against each other along the world's most heavily fortified border. Moreover, the U. S.-ROK military alliance continues to serve as the cornerstone for deterrence against an attack from the north. In short, despite dramatic changes in both domestic and international politics, the Korean peninsula remains one of the most dangerous places on earth.
According to the ROK's Defense White Paper, 1999, the government of South Korea has several national security objectives. These include (1) the maintenance of peace and stability on the Korean peninsula; (2) the improvement of inter-Korea relations; and (3) the strengthening of cooperation with the international community. 1 The discussion below examines each of these goals.