[EDITORIALS]Military should be more openFollowing the arrest of Shin Il-sun, a four-star general, on charges of embezzling public funds, three retired army generals are said to be under investigation on similar charges. Another active full general is the subject of another probe.
There are worries that the military leadership is falling apart. The prestige of the Korean Army was already tarnished after various scandals came to light earlier this year. Now that active and retired military leaders have been caught in the whirlwind of scandals, the image of the Korean Army has become even more tainted, and its chain of command is virtually paralyzed.
The investigations have touched off rumors about the motivation behind these probes, and these rumors circulate rampantly. For example, the Millennium Democratic Party, noting that General Shin is from the Honam region, said his arrest is part of a drive “to kill people from Honam.”
We hope such rumors will end merely as rumors. The reason such rumors fly so far stems from the lack of transparency in the investigations by the Ministry of National Defense.
Why did the ministry unexpectedly decide to investigate the embezzlement of public funds for a practice that had been previously regarded as customary? Why did General Shin become a target? The questions don’t seem to end. But the ministry has kept quiet.
The way the military prosecutors have conducted their investigations has not been appropriate. What they announced at the time they arrested General Shin was simply that he had embezzled 150 million won ($126,000) in public funds. When pressed for details about how he siphoned off the money, why he was charged and how the investigations will be carried out, the prosecutors kept quiet.
Illegal acts committed by military officials cannot be considered military secrets. When authorities try to cover up the truth, malicious rumors will spread even more. And when they try to hush up incidents without clarifying the truth, misdeeds will never end.
The military must not be seen as a hotbed of corruption. The military prosecutors must allow the public to know exactly what’s been going on and how they are handling the situation.