KATUSA (Korean: 카투사) stands for Korean Augmentation To the United States Army. Qualified Korean draftees who demonstrate a high level of English fluency and aptitude via a standardized written exam (usually the TOEIC) may apply for a KATUSA slot. Conscripts with qualifying test scores are selected on a random basis via lottery by the Korean government. Once selected, KATUSAs must complete six-weeks of ROK Army basic training. A brief orientation and OJT is conducted by the U.S. Army before they begin their full-time duty with a United States Army unit garrisoned in Korea for the duration of their military service.
The number of candidates vying for an available opening is extremely high because many soldiers believe that the U.S. Army is less abusive and more professional in its training and treatment of soldiers compared with the ROK Army, and that junior enlisted personnel receive better treatment, have more educational opportunities (especially with regards to learning English), experience a higher standard of living, and have an overall better quality of life than their ROK counterparts. In 2012, roughly 3,400 KATUSA soldiers served with 25,000 United States Forces Korea (USFK), versus 4,800 in 2005 and 11,000 in 1968. As the number of U.S. Soldiers in South Korea decreases, the number of KATUSA soldiers is decreasing as well. The ratio of KATUSA soldiers to U.S soldiers is roughly 1:10.
The KATUSA program provides the U.S. military with Korean-speaking soldiers, allowing greater military functionality and maneuverability throughout the Korean peninsula. KATUSA soldiers are assigned to each Eighth United States Army units with their Military Occupational Specialty like the United States Army soldiers and do the part of their MOS. On top of that KATUSA soldiers serve as translators between the local populace and the U.S. Army, and help the U.S. maneuver in unfamiliar terrain. Informally, they help U.S. soldiers new to the peninsula understand Korean customs and a bit of the language. It saves the U.S. money and manpower, and symbolizes the two nations' friendship and mutual support. The KATUSA program remains essential for the safety of the Republic of Korea, not only for establishing partnerships with American Armed Forces, but to learn from each other and to assist each other, especially with the threat of North Korea looming over South Korea. According to Richard Weiz (2013), author of "An Enduring Partnership: South Korea and the United States", The North Korean threat continues to provide the fundamental basis for the ROK-U.S. security relationship…The most recent period of tensions flared up after the North’s long-range rocket launch in December 2012 and underground nuclear test in February 2013" (Pg. 310). Providing valuable information on the peninsula as well as translations, KATUSA soldiers carry out their MOS effectively, allowing for a future of more foreign cooperation with America. Nirav Patel and Lindsey Ford (2009), authors of "The future of the U.S.-ROK alliance: global perspectives" go on to state that "The alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) has been a key component of America’s bilateral alliance system in Asia for almost 60 years. South Korea has been a close friend and valued partner during difficult circumstances, even when personal relations between U.S. and ROK leaders were at a low ebb"
KATUSA Code of Conduct
|“||As a member of the Republic of Korea Army augmented to the Eighth United States Army, I will sacrifice myself to defend my country and her principles. I vow to abide by the following Code of Conduct for unification and honour of my country:
To become a KATUSA, eligible Korean draftees who've demonstrated a minimum level of English-language proficiency by achieving minimum passing scores on standardized tests of English (TOEFL and TEPS), may apply through the Military Manpower Administration(MMA), upon which their name is entered into a lottery system. Typically, the minimum scores for getting into the lottery are 780 and over for TOEIC and 690 and over for TEPS. As the selection process is completely random, all eligible candidates have an equal chance of winning. Applicants may only apply once.
Beginning in July 1950 at the request of General Macarthur in front of ROK President Syang-Man Rhee, General Macarthur took command of all ROK Forces. At this time, General Macarthur implemented Korean soldiers into the U.S. Army where there were critical shortages, making the first KATUSA soldiers assigned to 7th Infantry Division, originally in Japan, but mobilized to In-Chon in September 1950. This program continued after the Korean War, and KATUSA soldiers would spend 18-months with the U.S. Army learning his occupation and would then return to the ROK Army for training others on the occupation. According to the Eighth Army Wightman NCO Academy, "With the establishment of the ROKA Training Center in 1963…KATUSA soldiers began to spend their whole military tour in the U.S. Army"
U.S. Air Force
While many Republic of Korea Air Force members in Korea work alongside U.S. Air Force members, there is no KATUSA program with the USAF counterpart; ROKAF retains their own unit and command structure separate from their USAF coworkers.
One criticism of the KATUSA program arises from the difference in promotion systems; the ROK Army promotes its enlistees on a quota/time basis and not through the merit system. A KATUSA soldier may be senior in rank to an American counterpart with significantly more field experience. However, this criticism is usually rebutted by the counter-argument from the United States Forces Korea that such promotion of KATUSA soldiers is sufficiently warranted given the fact that KATUSA soldiers usually possess at least two years of college experience, which would translate to an advanced enlisted rank for US soldiers.
Another criticism arising from the Korean Army side is based on the fact that most of the KATUSA soldiers are from the top universities in Korea. For the ROKA, this means that they are losing intelligent soldiers to the US Army. To minimize this, the selection process now randomly picks soldiers from the pool of applicants, instead of hiring the most qualified soldiers.
Some of the recent criticisms from the South Korean side include alleged forced-recruitment during the 1950-53 Korean War, when the 7th Infantry Division commandeered reinforcements for the landing at Incheon. These so-called "First KATUSA soldiers" included 313 men from Busan. (The South Korean side claims they were taken from refugee camps, but whether they volunteered or were coerced remains a matter of dispute.)
- "Abbreviations" (PDF). U.S. Department of State. 29 September 2006. p. 3. Retrieved 2009-03-14.
KATUSA, Korean Augmentation To the United States Army[dead link]
- then Lieutenant General B.E. Spivy for The Joint Chiefs of Staff (21 February 1968). "Increase of US Army Forces in Korea (JCSM-112-68)" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-03-14.
...15,000 ROK personnel, 11,000 of whom are Korean augmentation to U.S. Army (KATUSA soldiers) personnel integrated into US units.Declassified 1 Nov 94
- Weiz, Richard (2013). "An Enduring Partnership: South Korea and the United States". Korean Journal Of Defense Analysis 3 (25): 301–315. See p. 310.
- Patel, Nirav; Ford, Lindsey (2009). "The future of the U.S.-ROK alliance: global perspectives". Korean Journal Of Defense Analysis 4 (21): 401–416. doi:10.1080/10163270903298884.
- "Eighth United States Army (EUSA)". GlobalSecurity.org. 27 December 2005. Retrieved 2009-03-14.
The KATUSA Program is significant not only because of the military manpower and monetary savings that it provides to the U.S. Army, but also because it represents ROK/U.S. cooperation and commitment to deter war. The KATUSA Program is also symbolic of ROK/U.S. friendship and mutual support.
- "KATUSA Creed". 8th U.S. ARMY. 31 October 2011.
9. What is the KATUSA Code of Conduct? (1) We do our best to accomplish given duties with a high spirit of a soldier to become a role model of the ROKA soldiers. (2) We abide by regulations and reinforce the combined combat power with positive and active working attitude. (3) We take pride in ourselves as a military ambassador and affirmatively encourage the mutual relations between the two armies. Pg.32
- "KATUSA Training Academy (KTA)". Eighth Army Wightman NCO Academy. EUSA.
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