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Military Forces Coming Under Fire

Dec 06,1998
The military is coming under fire after seccessive mishaps.
The Minister of National Defense Chun Yong Taek, in a December 4 meeting in which leaders from all sectors of the military were in attendance, had warned that all units should be prepared for possible North Korean provocations. He also called for increased improvement of security and discipline.
The very next day, however, an armed surface-to- air missile was accidently launched in the morning. It exploded in air, sending debris down injuring several civilians.
On the afternoon of the same day a 90mm shell used in recoilless anti-tank guns was mishandled and exploded killing 3 soldiers in a unit on the eastern front. The soldiers reportedly tried to make a souvenir from the shell.
On December 6, fragments from a flare bomb flew into a residential house in Ilsan during a night exercise at a nearby Marine Corps firing range injuring one person.
In the past 12 days nine separate military acccidents occurred leaving ten soldiers dead.
Finally, after a public outcry, President Kim Dae Jung ordered a special investigation to find out the reasons why the deadly accidents are occuring one after another.
The government has hinted that a severe censure is in order while the opposition Grand National Party(GNP) is demanding that those responsible, including Defense Minister Chun, resign.
One reason for the mishaps is the break down of discipline. Regular soldiers who are performing their 26-month mandatory service, do not observe the safety codes and routine checks while maintenance is often not done properly.
Since former president Kim Young Sam's regime, military forces have been the object of purges. These purges were seen as a kind of revenge for the army's abuses against civilians and opposition movements. Since 1961 Korea had been dominated by a series of generals turned presidents, so Kim Young Sam's election brought about a diminishment and slackening in the armed forces. A new generation of younger military leaders has yet to appear.


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