[EDITORIALS]Whose side were they on?

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[EDITORIALS]Whose side were they on?

We were taken aback by the news that a 30-year-old army master sergeant, identified only as Jeon, confessed yesterday to the armed robbery of the Yeongbuk Agricultural Cooperative in Pocheon-gun, Gyeonggi province, two weeks ago.

Let us reiterate: A career soldier took a gun from his base and held up a financial institution. Equally disturbing is the fact that the investigation was delayed more than 10 days by lack of cooperation from army authorities, even though police marked Sergeant Jeon as a major suspect a few days after the robbery.

Discipline is slack when a career soldier residing outside a military base sneaks a gun from the base and commits an armed robbery. The crime is in a different league from the frequent runaways by armed low-level soldiers. Mr. Jeon returned the gun the day after his crime, but nobody knew it had been missing until the police investigation, which states how loose was the supervision of the armory.

The need for cooperation between the police and the military investigation team is urgent. The gun used in the crime was a military K1 rifle, and other equipment, including a military face mask and a smoke shell, was used. Witnesses stated that an accomplice wore an army uniform, which is why from the beginning many people thought it likely that the crime had been committed by a soldier. Nevertheless, military authorities failed to set up a joint investigation team with the police. We cannot accept their excuse that no concrete evidence indicated that a soldier was the culprit. If the military authorities indeed were responsible for stonewalling the investigation while the police dug up the evidence and identified Sergeant Jeon as the major suspect, they must be held accountable.

When it comes to preventing crimes and arresting criminals, the military and the civilian sectors cannot afford to hold themselves apart. A military organization must cherish honor, morale, and discipline. Thorough investigation and fair, strict punishments must form the basis of military discipline. This case must be taken as an opportunity to create a framework for cooperative investigations by the military and the police.
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