WASHINGTON — The Defense Department announced February 9, 2004, the creation of the Korean Defense Service Medal (KDSM) (PDF) The KDSM is a service medal to give special recognition for the sacrifices and contributions made by members of the U.S. Armed Forces who have served or are serving in the Republic of Korea.

Public Law 107-314 legislated the creation of a new medal to recognize military service in the Republic of Korea and the surrounding waters.

Members of the armed forces authorized the KDSM must have served in support of the defense of the Republic of Korea. The area of eligibility encompasses all land area of the Republic of Korea, and the contiguous water out to 12 nautical miles, and all air spaces above the land and water areas.

The KDSM period of eligibility is July 28, 1954, to a future date to be determined by the Secretary of Defense.

Service members must have been assigned, attached, or mobilized to units operating in the area of eligibility and have been physically deployed in the area of eligibility for 30 consecutive or 60 non-consecutive days or meet one of the following criteria:

  • Be engaged in actual combat during an armed engagement, regardless of the time in the area of eligibility.
  • Wounded or injured in the line of duty and require medical evacuation from the area of eligibility.
  • While participating as a regularly assigned air crew member flying sorties into, out of, within, or over the area of eligibility in support of military operations. Each day that one or more sorties are flown in accordance with these criteria shall count as one day toward the 30 or 60-day requirement.
  • Personnel who serve in operations and exercises conducted in the area of eligibility are considered eligible for the award as long as the basic time criteria is met. Due to the extensive time period for KDSM eligibility, the nonconsecutive service period for eligibility remains cumulative throughout the entire period.

The KDSM may be awarded posthumously, and only one award of the KDSM is authorized for any individual.

Each military department will prescribe appropriate regulations for administrative processing, awarding and wearing of the KDSM and ribbon for their service members, to include application procedures for veterans, retirees and next of kin.
Source: U.S. Department of Defense press release, February 9, 2004

Update June 7, 2004

Personnel seeking verification of their eligibility from the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) to receive the Korean Defense Service Medal (KDSM) could be in for long delays and possibly disappointment taking into consideration the following:

  • Approximately 2 million may be eligible for this medal and 200,000 to 600,000 requests are projected.
  • NPRC will have to verify eligibility of many of the requests.
  • Implementing instructions do not list specific source documents to verify eligibility.
  • A personnel record does not contain documentation of participation as a regularly assigned air crewmember flying sorties into, out of, within, or over the area of eligibility in support of military operations. Each day that one or more sorties are flown counts as one day toward the 30- or 60-day requirement; so verification of this requirement will be very difficult, if not impossible.
  • NPRC does not have a listing of the ships that were within 12 miles of Korea and the dates, so verification for Navy personnel based on personnel records will be difficult.
  • Being on TDY in Korea may not meet the award criteria. TDY does not generally mean assigned, attached, or mobilized to a unit. Even if TDY is accepted as the basis for this award it will be almost impossible to verify from personnel records because TDY orders are generally not permanent personnel documents.
  • Although verification of assignment may be possible through screening of finance records, these are not available at NPRC.

In view of the above it is suggested that if the veteran or retiree has any supporting documentation of their time in Korea, that it be included with the request. Only on or two documents would be sufficient. Submitting more is redundant and discouraged.

Source: NPRC E-mail June 7, 2004