[EDITORIALS]Reforming military justiceAn ad hoc committee on judiciary reforms has announced reforms of the military justice system that would give the military prosecution more power. The armed forces are involved in a heated debate on the measures. The military prosecution, currently attached to each military unit above the division level, would be consolidated and come under the direct control of the Defense Ministry. The move gives the military prosecution independence when conducting an investigation, because it does not fall under the command of the unit to which it is attached. Although the military is a special organization that needs special rules, to strengthen the independence of the military prosecution is indeed a step in the right direction. This is even more true considering the noise over the right to appoint prosecutors, which was in commanders’ hands. Until now, because of this military justice system, transparency issues keep surfacing in suspicious deaths in the military; commanding officers are thought to have influenced investigations.
Nevertheless, there are problems in the new measures. Although the power of the military prosecution will increase greatly, there is no counterweight to that power. The new measures will give the military prosecution control over the military police and the Defense Security Command, and it will receive only orders from the defense minister. In every organization that increases its authority there is the possibility of abuse of that authority. If the government, the defense minister and the military establishment are all on one side and decide to “plan” an investigation targeting a specific person or group, the damage will be enormous. Hence, we need an organ inside the military that monitors the new body.
It is also important that the military prosecution improves its ability to exercise its increased power in the right way. The people view the military prosecution with weary eyes. The current investigation into possible irregularities in Army promotions to general has been tainted with suspicion that the investigation was started to please the Blue House. The military prosecution needs to put serious efforts into regaining the trust of both the military and of those outside the military.
We also have to listen to the concern that commanders’ authority could be undermined by the new steps. Strong order is vital to the military, and it can only be achieved through the establishment of a strong command.