[EDITORIALS]Opening up the militaryThe Blue House is strongly interested in “civilianizing” the National Defense Ministry. Ever since new Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung took office, he has emphasized the issue repeatedly. Developing the Army, Air Force and Navy with balance has already materialized. An Air Force general was appointed the intelligence head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a post that had been occupied predominantly by Army figures.
Such reform, in principle, is appropriate. In advanced countries, such as the United States, Britain and Japan, it is already common to open up military posts to civilians. At the Pentagon’s headquarters, no active-duty officer occupies a post. And yet, our Defense Ministry has been the holy ground of career military officers. In the defense community, civilians comprise only 5 percent of the manpower. That is why the military has operated behind closed doors, and some shortcomings were cited.
Developing the three branches of the military with balance is also important. It has been known for a long time that the Army can no longer be at the center of modern warfare. But restructuring the military could not be carried out because Army figures have controlled the leadership. Now is the time for our military to be reformed, as Mr. Yoon suggested.
But, we must remember one thing. Most of all, we must not allow the civilianization of the military to infringe on the exclusive field of the military. Civilian experts should be in charge of defense policy, personnel affairs and procurement while the military must put all its efforts into operations. If civilians, who share the views of and have connections to the administration, attempt to intervene in military operations after occupying important posts, it will ruin the military. The military will become “political soldiers,” who will try to please the civilian leaders, while treating operations as a secondary matter. Therefore, it is important to devise a system that can prevent such problems. The military should have strict independent authority and its own personnel affairs committee for lower-level generals and officers.
The pool of civilian defense experts is also very shallow, so the military may feel insecure or demoralized about allowing them to work in the field. That must never happen. The government must make it clear that opening up the military is for its own good, and the changes should be made gradually.