In South Korea soldiers, and their parents, are pressuring the government to allow conscripts to have cell phones with them when they do their two years mandatory service. The military has long banned conscripts from having phones, considering cell phones, especially smart phones (the only kind most South Korean conscripts have these days) a security risk in the hands of young soldiers. What really annoys the conscripts is that they see American soldiers of the same age being allowed to have cell phones with them all the time. The largest cell phone manufacturer (Samsung) is a South Korean firm and there have been plenty of stories about Samsung phones being used by the American military on active duty and even in combat. So the South Korean soldiers wonder; what is the problem?
South Korean commanders have been paying attention to what their Israeli counterparts are doing to deal with the cell phone problem. The “cell phones for soldiers” policy in Israel has gone though many changes in the last decade. Not just cell phones, but also the use of social networks. Back in 2010 Israel prohibited active duty troops from even using social networking sites like Facebook. This included access via PCs or smart phones. This was to prevent information on current or planned operations getting to terrorists. These leaks had occurred several times already by 2010. As a result of that one Israeli soldier was court martialed (and spent ten days in jail) for reporting an upcoming raid on his Facebook page. The soldier had casually mentioned that his unit was going to conduct a raid in the West Bank, to arrest some Palestinians believed planning a terrorist attack on Israel. Another soldier who saw the Facebook posting, alerted the army, and the raid was called off.
For a long time the Israelis felt they couldn't ban troops from using social networking sites, mainly because most of them are reservists called up for a short period of active duty. Instead, the army just kept reminding everyone that only they can avoid deadly accidents on the information highway. When this did not work a total ban for troops, while on duty, was attempted. That didn’t work either. One problem was that for some people social networks like Facebook are an addiction.
The Israeli army tried constant reminders to soldiers to think twice before they post any military related items on the Internet. To that end, the military released information about the soldier who got convicted, emphasizing the punishment angle. Just another reminder for the troops. But since 2010 the Israelis have also come to realize that cell phones can be very useful in combat. The Americans were demonstrating this in Iraq and Afghanistan. That resulted in local commanders being given a lot of discretion on what the cell phone rules were for their troops. That led to different rules for different units and the debate rages on. Meanwhile South Korean troops just want the cell phones many have become addicted to.