August 16, 2012:
A growing number of South Korea Army officers are denouncing the smart phone as the most powerful weapon the North Koreans have. The problem is that nearly all South Korean soldiers own smart phones and will go to great lengths to hang on to them, even when forbidden to carry them while on duty. In many cases smart phones are not allowed on military bases. All this because smart phones distract soldiers from their work, especially boring chores like guard duty. This was discovered, with increasing frequency over the last few years as NCOs and officers out, especially at night, checking up on the guards, found the troops engrossed in some smart phone game, texting, or reading an e-book. Despite a growing number of soldiers being punished for having, and misusing, smart phones on duty, troops continue to risk using the devices. Some military psychologists are describing this attachment to their cell phones as an addiction. South Korea already recognizes addiction to the Internet or computer games as something worthy of serious medical care. All this is compounded by the fact that most South Korean soldiers are conscripts, who don't want to be in the military anyway.
Another problem with cell phones in the hands of soldiers is the amount of secret military information that gets leaked via Facebook pages and the Internet in general. South Korean intelligence experts know that North Korea has security analysts who do nothing but monitor the Internet for stuff South Korean soldiers have posted on line. This adds up to a lot of very detailed information (including lots of pictures and videos) on the South Korean military, what it is up to, and what it is planning.
The latest effort to control the damage smart phones do to the military is to admit to the troops that the senior leaders know what's going on and why. Soldiers who continue to hurt national security because of cell phone addiction, or simply not thinking before posting something, are warned of more severe punishments. The military cannot afford continued leaks and dereliction of duty (especially by those guarding bases or borders). At the moment, the addiction is still winning.
This is not the first time such a problem developed. In the 1970s and 80s there were portable (hand held) radios and cassette tape players to distract troops on guard duty. The U.S. military solved the problem by ending conscription and making it clear that anyone caught on duty with these portable devices would lose their jobs. Thus the smart phone may be the final cause of ending conscription in South Korea.