Air force chief offers to step down
The commanding officer of the nation’s Air Force has told the defense minister he is willing to step down over the recent crash of a KF-16 jet.
In a statement, Air Force Chief of Staff Kim Sung-il said, “I apologize for causing concern to the nation over an accident involving a KF-16 jet. Thus, I have decided to resign and Defense Minister Kim Jang-soo knows of my intentions.”
He also apologized for playing golf on March 1, when the military was mourning Yun Jang-ho, a Korean soldier who was killed by a terrorist bombing in Afghanistan.
An Air Force official said yesterday that General Kim visited the defense minister over the weekend to brief him on the results of a probe into the crash initiated by the Air Force and took the opportunity to offer his resignation. Last month, a KF-16 fighter crashed into the Yellow Sea due to maintenance failures.
At the time the Air Force said that mechanics failed to replace a defective cover plate, despite a recommendation from the plane’s manufacturer that the work be done by the end of 2004. Mechanics also falsified records. The Board of Audit and Inspection of Korea is conducting its own investigation into the case.
There have been other accidents involving KF-16 fighter jets in the past but it was the first time a plane crashed due to maintenance failures.
Last month the wing of an F-15K fighter jet was damaged when its rear wheels fell into a manhole at an Air Force base in Daegu.
The Blue House said yesterday that it would leave the final decision to the defense minister and would accept changes in Air Force leadership based on his recommendations.
Kim Sung-il was given a two-year term in October 2005. A replacement is likely to be chosen by next month, an Air Force official said.
By Brian Lee Staff Writer [firstname.lastname@example.org]