[EDITORIALS]What Accidents Say About the Army

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[EDITORIALS]What Accidents Say About the Army

During the daytime Tuesday, shells from an anti-aircraft gun shot in all directions through the sky in central Seoul with a roaring sound. Citizens shuddered, seized with fear and anxiety. Though 17 rounds were accidentally discharged in split-seconds, it is fortunate that there were no casualties. Many citizens nevertheless are feeling overwhelmed as they try to calm themselves.

The Ministry of National Defense explained that this accident originated in a simple mistake during a regular monthly checkup on the artillery piece located on the rooftop of a hotel. A sergeant mistakenly did not separate blank and live bullets. Considering that anti-aircraft guns can fire 6,000 bullets a minute, the misfiring of only 17 rounds without casualty may well be a blessing from heaven. But the causes of the accident must be thoroughly investigated, and whoever is responsible must be strictly questioned in order to prevent any repeat occurrences.

What really worries us is the possibility that such a simple mistake may reflect the overall state of training and discipline in the army. It was not long ago that high-ranking army officials were reprimanded for irresponsibility because they continued to play golf when North Korean ships intruded into South Korean territorial waters. Recently, two military guards snatched two firearms from an ammunition depot, and the army has not yet been able to recover them. A few days ago, an armored motorcar sank in the water, killing three soldiers. Inevitably, we worry that throughout the ranks professionalism and discipline in the army has become too loose. Of course, accidents will always happen in such a large military organization of 600,000 soldiers. But the army must be cool-headed and self-scrutinizing and determine whether, if there had been strict discipline and thorough safety instruction, such an accident might not have occurred.

Especially when people feel uneasy with the currently troubled state of affairs as society polarizes, the army needs to show that it is keeping its balance and tightening discipline. We think it urgent that the army thoroughly investigate these breaches of military discipline, determine why they have happened and prepare plans to revive the professionalism and discipline of the army.
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