SEOUL, The defense ministry is in talks with related government agencies over the idea of gradually reducing the number of draftees assigned to police, firefighting and other nonmilitary public services, a source said Tuesday.

The consideration came amid growing fears that the military could face a shortage of troops due to the nation's low birthrate and other reasons.

"Some five years later, it is presumed that there will be a lack of resources available for conscription," the source said on condition of anonymity. "So reducing (the number of) those assigned to nonmilitary positions or alternative forms of service is inevitable."

Currently, draftees can apply to serve in the police for 21 months, in the Coast Guard or fire service for 23 months or in the Army for around 21 months.

Conscripts also have the option of working in certain industries or as part of the public medical service as civilian staff for a certain period of time if they qualify for such alternative forms of service.

As of December last year, 57,291 people were serving in nonmilitary positions to fulfill their mandatory military service.

Source: Yonhap News Agency