veterans affairs-policy plan

By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, April 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will hold a variety of events at home and abroad to mark the 60th anniversary of signing the Korean War Armistice Agreement as a way to honor those who made sacrifices during the three-year conflict, government officials said Monday.

The Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs reported its 2013 policy plan to President Park Geun-hye at the defense ministry, which centers on expanding benefits for war veterans, creating jobs for ex-servicemen and holding various events to raise public awareness of the Korean War that ended in a truce.

The war, in which South Korea fought against an invasion of the communist North, was the first foreign conflict in which all of the armed services of the U.S. were integrated. The U.S. took part along with more than 20 other nations under the United Nations flag.

The ministry said it will designate July 27, the day when the armistice was signed, as a veteran day for U.N. forces and refurbish victory monuments and war memorials across the nation to raise awareness among the public.

It will also produce documentaries to shed light on war heroes and countries that participated in the war, and establish a digital archive to put together remaining military documents.

The ministry will invite 830 U.N. war veterans and bereaved families to the nation in a gesture of appreciation for their service and sacrifice, and overseas embassies will host events and dispatch delegations to the nations involved in the war.

At home, the ministry will gradually increase veterans' monthly allowances, which are set at 150,000 won (US$135), though it didn't give details of the plan.

Calls have grown for measures to increase benefits for those who fought for the nation, as an average of 13,000 veterans have died annually in the last five years. A total of 146,751 Korean War veterans are still alive and their average age is 82.

The ministry vowed to increase the retirement age of employees at government organizations and public and private companies if they had served in the military by reflecting periods of their compulsory service in their careers.

While the veterans affairs ministry said it will push to revise related regulations to give incentives for those who served the country, it is not clear whether it can be written into law, as civic activists could oppose the plan, which could discriminate against women and the disabled.

All able-bodied men must serve in South Korea's 650,000-strong military for at least 24 months, a key part of defense against North Korea. Most of the enlisted men are in their early 20s and are forced to put their studies on hold to join the armed forces.

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