Report Reveals South Korean Soldiers Fed Poor Quality Food

A South Korean soldier fries eggs on a shovel. Image for illustration purposes, obviously.

A South Korean soldier fries eggs on a shovel. Image for illustration purposes, obviously.

A recent National Assembly investigation into food in the military revealed that a South Korean soldier is fed for just ₩2,051 won (1.42EUR/1.85USD) per meal, an amount far lower than that given to American soldiers and even less than most Seoul elementary school pupils receive. Images of inedible-looking barrack meals in the news have recently inspired outrage and accusations that the South Korean military wastes its massive budget.

The member of the National Assembly behind the food budget report also made news recently for revealing another shocking military revelation: according to the most recent Ministry of Defense statistics, 64% of all deaths among members of the armed forces during the past five years have been from suicide.

South Koreans have a complicated relationship with the military, simultaneously relying on a huge standing army in defence against the North but also resenting conscription and the strict hierarchy of the armed forces.

While some comments praised the report, others repeated the argument that legislators will never understand military culture because so many of them did not serve. In fact, 46 of the 253 members of the current National Assembly who were eligible for the draft did not serve – that’s 18.2% (source) – a figure in stark comparison to the 6.4% of the overall eligible male population who do not do military service (source). Political commentary often cites this disparity as an example of how politicians allegedly follow a different set of rules from the average citizen.

Assembly Member Jung presented these images of meals served at training bases this September

Article from E-Daily:

Soldiers go hungry, daily meals worth just half of meals given to US Army

While the annual budget for feeding the armed forces rose by 4% this year, it still remains at a low level.

Saenuri Party member Jung Hee-soo, of the National Assembly Defense Committee, stated in an investigative report distributed on 3rd October that “in 2012, the funds allotted for one meal for a soldier is 2,051 won ($1.84), adding up to just 6,155 won ($5.54) for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” The report goes on to say, “the amount doesn’t even match that allotted for Seoul primary or middle school students, whose individual meal costs are respectively 2,580 won ($2.32) and 3,250 won ($2.93).”

The figures mentioned in the report mean that the cost of a soldier’s meal is just 63% of that given to middle school students and 79% of a primary school student’s.

Compared with the US military, the meal budget for Korean soldiers looks even worse. In 2012, the allotment for an American soldier was 11,385 won ($10.23) per day, or 3,795 won ($3.41) per meal. This means that a Korean soldier must eat a meal worth just 54% of the meal an American soldier receives.

Assembly Member Jung then presented photos of the meals provided at Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine mess halls.

On the 10th September, a lunch provided at a Marine mess hall consisted of rice, curry, kimchi, and a few sesame leaves. Breakfast at an Air Force barracks was broth with a few bean sprouts, kimchi, soft tofu, and sautéed squid.

Describing the food, Jung said, “Looking at these photos, it is doubtful that a soldier on training, fatigued in body and spirit, could keep up his strength with such meals…When you consider that the mess halls probably took care to make their meals look more substantial when they sent photographs at the request of the National Assembly, the typical meals must be even less than this.”

He added, “Next year’s allocation for the military meal budget is also set to rise just 4.5%, such minute increases are not sufficient to make the meals match the reality of our soldiers’ needs. Knowing that a soldier’s morale can be determined by how he eats, it is paramount that we solve the problem of inadequate meals, regardless of how small our military budget may be.”

Comments from Daum:


Regardless of how these draft-dodging rats may chatter away, they are in no rush to fix such a problem


I’m really curious to see if even half of the meal allocation is being spent wisely…


Rat-saekki, you throw money at the Four Rivers Project but leave nothing to pay for food. How long will we have to put up with this miserable bunch of draft dodgers?


The reaction of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, along with all the feminazis: “Yeah, and what’s wrong with spending so little??”


And out of that food budget how much are the profiteers skimming off? How much by the division commander? And the regimental commander? They get their kimchi and then how much finally trickles down to the enlisted man?


Does the writer of this article have any idea how much America spends on defense?


Crack down on the shit-star generals who retired and the veterans groups, that’s the way to solve this problem


I entered the Air Force in 2005. I have since left the military… but even as someone who likes to eat at good restaurants I thought that the food wasn’t that bad. Don’t try to fix something that will never change, instead increase the spending on other military supplies. What we had to eat was sufficient.


Even having thrown away money on the Four Rivers Project we should be able to spend as much money as the American soldiers get. Rat saekki traitors… same with chicken liver Park [Note: a pun on the name of Park Geun-hye, presidential candidate]


What do they expect to eat, cafeteria food is cafeteria food. To be honest, that looks better than what I get at home. They don’t eat it because they are bad-mannered. It’s going to the canteen that’s the problem.


Have you ever seen them leave food on the plate? If the food comes out alright then it could even be compared with the stuff at a buffet. They don’t even eat breakfast when they’re at home…


I doubt even half of the money is used


The problem isn’t the budgeted amount it’s all those noms who skim money off the top.


It looks like nothing has changed in the 35 years since I was in the military. Instead, it looks like things have gotten even worse. However the number of golf courses for the military manages to keep increasing. Just like with our career soldiers, you’ve got to take care of all soldiers who are serving their country!!!


Nonsense ke ke The food doesn’t look like this. The food depicted would be the very worst I’ve ever seen come out of a training camp mess hall. Most of the time there’s meat on the side. You can eat your fill (well, actually, sometimes there’s a little bit less but it’s only a very little bit less) and fruit, ice cream, and bread also shows up often. When it came to fruit, it seemed like I ate apples, persimmons, pears, and grapes almost every day. Hardtack or ice cream was also often on the menu. I never worried about eating in the army, don’t worry.


I ate more bean sprouts, squid, and seaweed in the army than I ever had in my life. Dear lord the amount of bean sprouts, every single meal except when we had toast.


Even soldiers in the Tang Dynasty ate better than that.


Thank you! If the food changes for the better next year then I will vote for Assembly Member Jung for the rest of my life.


I worked in the headquarters, when I went to the officer’s dining room the rice was always pure white, always made in a pressure cooker and had that lustrous shine to it… When I went to the enlisted man’s cafeteria the rice was just steamed, came out crumbly, and was always kind of yellow. It was inevitable, the only thing we got was government rice that had passed its expiration date. There was even a difference between the kimchi served to the officers and what they gave to the enlisted men.


How is this different from what a human rights lawyer said about the young generation, that it was nothing but a slave to the older generation?.. How much is the salary for a conscript now, 100,000 won ($90) a month? Even with the unusual situation of a divided country, how can we call ourselves a civilised country if we force young people to spend two valuable years of their life in the army and then treat them like this? Dammit, the standard of living and our social consciousness is still at the level of a developing nation…

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