[EDITORIALS]Heed the wake-up callAt the conclusion Wednesday of hearings on the murder of Kim Sun-il by Iraqi militants, the National Assembly special committee said the incident was “a case that showed the overall problems in South Korea’s foreign affairs and security system.” The committee again emphasized the problems that the Korean people have felt and judged regarding the incident.
In reality, the government’s handling of the incident shows a series of mistakes and disappointments. Each government body failed to give an adequate response to the incident. This applies to the Foreign Ministry, which is in charge of protecting nationals abroad and is responsible for hostage negotiations in Iraq; the National Intelligence Service, which is in charge of collecting intelligence in the war against terror; the Defense Ministry, which should have been setting up a local network in the face of the deployment of South Korean troops; and the National Security Council, which should have been coordinating a comprehensive response capability.
None of these agencies has much to say for itself, for they failed to respond quickly to the crisis. They relied merely on the testimony of Kim Chun-ho, president of Cana Trading, and did not engage in a smooth exchange of intelligence with the United States and other allies.
Lacking coordination among the agencies, the government reported to President Roh Moo-hyun unconfirmed reports that there was hope for Kim Sun-il, when he was already dead. This scene was even aired on television. In sum, the incident reveals an overall structural weakness in our foreign affairs and security system.
Despite this, there is no indication of the government’s response to mounting criticism or that any change in the system is taking place. Instead, when public rage appears to be rising, it responds by saying, “We will reflect upon the mistakes with grim determination. We will undertake fundamental reform measures.”
The committee’s report should act as a wake-up call. The government should immediately begin reforming the system to respond to the changed circumstances of the 21st century. Also, we hope that the government will seriously review the assertions of certain committee legislators that the National Security Council is getting involved in policy planning and implementation, which does not conform to its constitutional role.