[VIEWPOINT]Generals Don't Need a Morale Boost

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[VIEWPOINT]Generals Don't Need a Morale Boost

"I've arranged for the best doctors and planned ways to transfer you to safe places in case you are injured," Napoleon told his troops sitting around a campfire. The soldiers replied, "General, for your safety, never ever come forward when the battle starts."

General William T. Sherman of the American Civil War marched among his cavalry so that he would not inconvenience his soldiers. To avoid putting his soldiers' under the hot sun, the general made his troops march only at night. Moved by his concern, the soldiers accepted whatever orders he gave.

During the Korean War, General Kim Hong-il took a position in front of his soldiers who were trembling with fear. Although bullets and bombs were flying around, General Kim bravely moved about the mountain ridge. Seeing this, his soldiers recovered their morale. The morale of the military is influenced a great deal by the actions of trusted leaders.

In 1993, high-ranking officials who were involved in the bribery scandal surrounding the Yulgok arms procurement project, including former defense ministers and generals, were arrested in droves. Saying it was investigating the case, the police ransacked even the garment chest of the wife of a three-star general. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the security commander were dismissed immediately from their posts after the incident occurred. However, nobody said the dismissal would erode military morale.

But the situation is different now. A missile was fired by accident in December 1998 in Inchon. Although the heads of the military made various excuses, it was hard for us to believe them. The generals made a fuss, saying any measures taken against them would lower the morale of their subordinates. It was found through an investigation that the accident resulted not from mechanical malfunction of the equipment but from a short-circuit. In October 1999, when a combat plane crashed, and in May 2000, during the ridiculous situation involving the arms procurement consultant Linda Kim, generals also spoke of morale.

The contents of 21 hours of communication between our navy and the North Korean vessel Cheongjin 2 on June 2 through June 3 show how pitiful our soldiers' morale has become.

"You have intruded our territorial waters."

"It's one of the agreements made through the June 15 Joint Declaration. It is a water path opened up by Chairman Kim Jong-il."

"We fully understand your position. So, which direction is your ship heading to?"

"We're moving toward 23 degrees."

"It's still our waters if you continue to move toward that direction. Please change the direction."

"Chairman Kim Jong-il is watching us."

"Please stop the ship!"

"Don't be excited!"

"Why are you suddenly intruding our waters after 50 years of silence?"

"It's our just water path."

"Please report to your government so that we can inspect you."

"It is off duty hour in North Korea, so there is no one who will answer our report. And our captain also went down to his cabin, saying that he wants to take a rest."

This is the shameful and humiliating morale of our navy, which was recorded on the spot on June 2. However, nobody is saying that we should raise their morale. Out of the blue, the military is insisting that the morale of generals should be raised instead. The morale of generals? They continued to play golf even after they received a report that a North Korean vessel invaded our waters!

In 1998, the military upgraded the generals' cars, saying that it must "raise the morale of generals." When our navy was being trifled by the North Korean vessels, the military heads kept playing golf to "boost their morale." They said they did not think it was a serious situation. But, they should have realized the seriousness by instinct when three huge North Korean vessels intruded our territorial waters repeatedly for the first time in 50 years. The actions of the leaders should be exemplary for their subordinates and the public. They should have gone to the situation room and considered countermeasures and strategies with other staff officers. Playing golf at that point was definitely incorrect behavior for military heads.

Now they are defending their irresponsible behavior, insisting that punishment will weigh down the morale of the military in general. The morale of the soldiers and navy on the front line will collapse when they think they have such irresponsible people as their bosses. I heard that some soldiers who lost their fighting spirit hurled their weapons and said "there are neither enemies nor friendly troops anymore." Generals are the ones who must boost the morale of their troops, not the ones who need a morale boost. To maintain the fighting spirit of our frontline soldiers at a high level, the military heads should wake up, and the rules of engagement stipulated by the UN Command that were given over to politics should be returned to the military commanders.


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The writer is a defense analyst.

by Jee Man-won

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