The defence ministry plans to phase out its decades-old compulsory 12 months of service by the end of 2015, replacing it with four months of military training for men aged over 20.The government hopes volunteers will then enlist for a longer period of military service, making for a better trained, more highly skilled military.
Military service was seen as a patriotic duty after the island’s split from China at the end of a civil war in 1949.
But warming ties with Beijing have seen tensions ease in recent years and the idea of serving in a professional military seems to hold few attractions for young Taiwanese, according to recruitment figures.
The death of corporal Hung Chung-chiu, who died of heatstroke on July 4, has dealt a further blow to the defence ministry’s plans for a professional military.
“The case could not have come at a worse time. I’m afraid the outlook for the professional soldier recruitment plan is grim,” Hsueh Ling, a legislator from the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), told AFP.
Hung’s family believe the 24-year-old’s death was brought on by excessive exercise forced upon him as punishment for taking a smartphone onto his army base.
Thirty-seven military officers and soldiers have been punished in relation to Hung’s death just three days before completion of his military service, with four of them, including a colonel, being detained on charges of abuse of power.