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. Many also believe that serving as a KATUSA engenders more respect from other Koreans, compared to their counterparts in the ROK Armed Forces. In 2012, roughly 3,400 KATUSA soldiers served with 25,000 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.
KATUSA Code of Conduct
|“||I, as a Republic of Korea soldier assigned to the Eighth United States Army, will defend my homeland and protect democracy. For unification and the honor of our country, I will do the following:
KATUSA soldiers were formerly chosen by the Military Manpower Administration (MMA) through standardized tests as well as through the Army Training School. Today, all KATUSA program applicants must go through the MMA. Applicants must simply pass a standardized English test, namely TOEIC, TOEFL and TEPS. The minimum scores for applying are over 780 in the case of TOEIC and over 690 in the case of TEPS. All applicants who have passed the English test go through a lottery system, and therefore have an equal chance of getting into the program. Application is limited to once per person per lifetime. Previous knowledge and study of English language is of little benefit to applicants due to low-to-average test score requirements for eligibility and the resulting larger applicant pool combined with the random lottery system of selection.
The KATUSA program began in July 1950, during the Korean War, by informal agreement between Synghman Rhee and Douglas MacArthur. The KATUSA program has been maintained as a de facto liaison between the armed forces of both nations, still without a formal written agreement.
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.
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". U.S. Department of State. 29 September 2006. p. 3. Archived from the original on 2006-07-25. http://web.archive.org/web/20060725155412/http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/69038.pdf. Retrieved 2009-03-14. "KATUSA, Korean Augmentation To the United States Army" [dead link]
- "Korean News about KATUSA's rising application rate.". 11 December 2006. http://news.mk.co.kr/newsRead.php?no=527218&year=2006.
- 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)". http://www.dod.mil/pubs/foi/reading_room/708.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
- "Eighth United States Army (EUSA)". GlobalSecurity.org. 27 December 2005. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/army/8army.htm. 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. http://freedownloadb.com/doc/leadership-chemicaldragoncom-dragons-den-3221785.html. "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"
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