The Agency for Defense Development — which recently tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile, making South Korea the first non-nuclear state to do so — has yet to prepare guidelines on compensating those who build strategic assets like SLBMs, a lawmaker found.
“Researchers at the ADD are, too, our assets critical to defense. If they abandon us because we don’t pay them right, that’s a loss, a threat to national security,” Rep. Kim Byung-kee of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea said, referring to data from the Science Ministry and the arms procurement agency overseeing the ADD.
Workers usually receive proceeds from overseas sales, but those involved in top-secret projects, like the SLBM task force, have no way to get the extra money because no exports are permitted over security concerns.
The ADD, fully aware of the loophole that had gone unnoticed until recently, said workers on secret projects have received yearly allowances of 600,000 won ($514). But not even that went to everyone waiting for them last year because of budget constraints.
“We’re in talks with the Defense Ministry and the arms procurement agency over the issue, to compensate employees who get sidelined when it comes to bonus payments,” the ADD said, noting it could take some time to see that happen.
But a Seoul official familiar with state-driven projects said it was beyond time that it come under debate. The Finance Ministry, which handles regulations on such projects, will have to agree to making exceptions for employees in charge of making secret weapons, the official added.
Defense Minister Suh Wook, who told the National Assembly last week that he will look at ways to accelerate weapons programs without leaving anyone demoralized by compensation, also echoed worries, saying he could not guarantee how the discussion would turn out with the Finance Ministry.
Meanwhile, the ADD is awaiting a court decision on unpaid bonus payments.
A court is expected to rule on a case involving some 400 researchers at the ADD, who argue they are entitled to a greater share of the proceeds from a battle tank technology transfer made to Turkey in 2015. The proceeds were worth 70 billion won.
“This was not one of the cases where we have infighting because we have no rules in place. We have directives on the particular export proceeds and we’ve tried mediation. But they took it to court,” the ADD said.
By Choi Si-young (email@example.com)Internet Explorer Channel Network