[EDITORIALS]Shells shattered credibilityLast month's sea battle between forces from North and South Korea exposed the vulnerability of South Korea's national security and caused a serious split in public opinion. Even after becoming the target of the North Korean Navy's surprise attack, some in the South presented intolerable excuses. The government and the military authorities must take total responsibility for the grave situation and come up with measures to prevent a similar crisis.
The sea battle was relatively short, during which the South Korean Navy launched a counterattack to end the North's initial strike. The clash was, in fact, unavoidable. The navy's countermeasures and judgement on the situation may have been wrong, but there is no way to reverse the decisions. It is, however, difficult to accept the vulnerability that the government and the military authorities displayed while trying to take control of the post-battle situation.
First, the defense authorities should have been careful to avoid doubts on the facts of their announcement made three hours after the battle. The authorities should have provided clear and accurate information on the beginning and the end of the battle, the extraordinary moves of the North Korean Navy and an analysis of the battle area. Why did they stick to these poor explanations despite mounting doubts? It can be seen as nothing but the result of the military authorities' poor preparedness for contingencies.
The government, despite the crisis, pledged to hold on to the sunshine policy, limiting its options to demanding an apology and a promise to punish those responsible for the clash from the North. Some officials raised the possibility that the battle may have been accidental, even putting the blame on South Korean fishing vessels for the battle. Such arguments seemed to favor the North's stance. The internal disorder reflects the failure of the military and national defense leaders to fulfill their duties. The defense authorities must undergo self-examination if their military decisions were influenced by political judgements. We should keep in mind that the engagement policy toward the North depends on strong national security and cautious military countermeasures.