The South Korean government on Tuesday decided to send 350 troops backed by helicopters and 140 reconstruction workers to Afghanistan to help rebuild the war-torn country, the defence ministry said.
The announcement came days after US President Barack Obama said he was deploying 30,000 more soldiers to help fight the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, and appealed to foreign allies to contribute more.
The South Korean contingent will be based in Parwan province just north of Kabul for 30 months from July 1 next year, the defence ministry said in a statement.
A provincial reconstruction team of 100 civilians and 40 police will be guarded by 350 troops backed by helicopters, armoured vehicles and an unmanned reconnaissance drone, it said.
Officials have said the South Korean troops will not do any fighting except to protect the aid team.
A cabinet meeting on Tuesday approved the deployment and the ministry plans to send a motion this week to parliament for approval.
The main opposition Democratic Party has said it would oppose the troop deployment, but the ruling Grand National Party has a large majority in parliament.
South Korea, a close US ally, currently has 25 medical staff and job training experts working inside the American base at Bagram in Parwan.
It sent 210 engineering and medical troops to Afghanistan in 2002, but withdrew them in December 2007.
Taliban insurgents took 23 South Korean church volunteers hostage in the summer of 2007 and murdered two of them. They demanded the Korean military force be pulled out – a move Seoul said was already scheduled.
South Korea also sent non-combat troops to Iraq, but withdrew them last December after four years.
The main role of its 655,000-strong military is to guard against North Korea, but it also takes part in United Nations peacekeeping missions.