Korea's defense spending has risen only in the single digits range since 2006 while neighbors such as China have seen double-digit increases.
Korea's defense spending grew two percent in 2010, 6.2 percent in 2011, five percent in 2012 and 4.7 percent last year. It is expected to increase 3.5 percent this year, averaging out to 4.28 percent per year.
The Defense Ministry has been downsizing troops on the assumption that annual defense spending would rise seven percent. The ministry claims the defense budget needs to rise at least that much for Korea to remain prepared to deal with regional threats.
The ministry's calculations include costs to cover the development of a so-called "kill chain," whereby the military can detect signs of an impending ballistic missile launch and preemptively destroy it; an indigenous missile defense system; costs related to preparations to regain full troop control from the U.S.; construction of more Aegis destroyers and submarines; and the purchase of F-35 stealth jets and development of a next-generation Korean fighter jet.
These objectives need to be met, according to the military, if the country is to be ready to deal with a North Korean threat even after troops are downsized from the present 640,000 to 522,000 by 2022.
The defense budget for this year stands at W35.7 trillion (US$1=W1,071).
Japan's defense spending has steadily decreased since 2002, with the exception of 2010. But Japan boosted defense expenditure last year by 0.8 percent to 4.76 trillion yen, and this year it has risen 2.8 percent to 4.88 trillion yen.
The Japanese government's lurch to the far right has played a major role in the increase. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has increased defense spending citing North Korea's nuclear and missile threats, possible clashes with China over the Senkaku or Diaoyu Islands, and an increased military role Tokyo envisions on the international stage.