[EDITORIALS]Shouldering a greater burdenAs the reduction in U.S. forces stationed on the peninsula has become a reality, we must face the fact that we are the only ones who can shoulder the responsibility for providing security.
Considering the sluggish economy, we hoped that such a reality would come at a more convenient time, but now we must face the unavoidable challenge.
The first thing we have to worry about is the astronomical cost involved in gaining and sustaining the ability to independently defend our country. In addition, while the problem is at our doorstep, our contingency plans to fill the void are about a decade away from addressing the problem.
According to the Ministry of National Defense, in order to field a strategic force that can do without the support of the U.S. forces, we need an estimated 55 trillion won ($46.6 billion) for the period until 2010. The defense budget has to be increased from the current 2.8 percent of gross domestic product to 3.5 percent.
Needless to say, the public must bear the increased burden. Nevertheless, considering the political landscape, it is hard because politicians insist on cutting the defense budget. We have to ask whether our government grasps the reality and has given it any serious thought. Last year, the government announced that we would achieve an independent defense capability in 10 years. Nevertheless, since then only abstract notions have been provided. With words only, how can we achieve an independent defense?
At a meeting with security-related ministers yesterday, President Roh ordered that the public be informed that the redeployment of the U.S. forces is taking place in close cooperation with the U.S. government, and that our own government is devising appropriate measures.
The government must announce from what source and in what way it will provide the financial resources that are required to fill the gap created by the reduction of the U.S. forces in Korea. It must also clarify how much more tax people must pay to make up for the budget deficit and how much sacrifice will be required in other areas of people’s lives.
As the economy gradually deteriorates, we wonder whether people will be willing to bear such an additional burden.