[EDITORIALS]What about soldiers in Iraq?The situation in northern Iraq has grown increasingly unstable. Recently, a group of Sunni Muslims killed three Kurds, heightening the possibility of internal war between the two groups.
South Korea has dispatched its “Zayituun” unit to Irbil in that region. Koreans are paying great attention to the troops’ safety, but we have heard nothing about them since their departure ceremony in early August.
There are reasons for our ignorance about the troops. News media have accepted the government’s demand to refrain from reporting on the troops in order to protect the unit.
As a newspaper, the JoongAng Ilbo has felt difficulties in not reporting the soldiers’ activities in Iraq. At the same time, we are also concerned about the safety of our troops.
But we can no longer keep quiet about the troops’ situation.
First, Korea’s dignity has been damaged. The military authorities probably have the right reasons to do its best to protect the soldiers. But there are also suspicions.
Why was the departure ceremony held in such a low-profile manner, although the troops were leaving for a mission during which they could be killed?
Although there are safety concerns, it is absurd that the government has said nothing about the troops for two months. It is no wonder that the international community wonders about Korea’s silence.
U.S. President George W. Bush recently omitted South Korea when mentioning American allies. His silence may have been viewed as a sign of Korea’s discomfort and uneasiness about its troop dispatch to Iraq.
We have sent troops to Iraq based on a sovereign decision. The Ministry of National Defense must remember that the people have a right to know about the Korean troops’ activities. By now, the troops’ work in Iraq has probably already been exposed. Therefore, it is time to promote their activities in aiding the Iraqi people to better protect them.
If the military authorities continue to be passive about this matter, they are being negligent in their duties. The government must change its position as soon as possible, through such actions as developing measures to send Korean journalists to Iraq to report on the troops and what they are doing.
We in the media should also feel ashamed that we have done nothing but wait for the Defense Ministry to act.