[EDITORIALS]Faith in military falteringIt was only a 3.9-ton boat. It had an apparently intoxicated fisherman at the helm. And yet as the South Korean fishing vessel crossed the Northern Limit Line toward North Korea, our armed forces proved unable to stop it.
Barely six months have passed since the fences along the Demilitarized Zone in Cheorwon, Gangwon province, were cut. Now, our maritime front line has been breached.
“We tried out best,” said military officials.
They fired warning shots, but they were unable to stop the boat. They also said it was difficult to judge if the boat intended to continue north before it crossed the fishing limit line. They added that Coast Guard patrol boats had already returned to their bases after evacuating a fleet of vessels fishing in the vicinity.
But the failure to prevent an inebriated fisherman from crossing the limit line in broad daylight, right under the noses of our men, is inexcusable under any circumstances.
A rumor is already circulating that the Army unit that first spotted the boat may have failed to report it promptly to the Navy and Coast Guard. Military officials came across as uncertain and tentative, saying and then retracting several times where the boat was first seen and the timetable of the incident.
The delay in the announcement of the accidental fatal shooting of an Iraqi Kurdish militiaman by a South Korean soldier last December has dealt a serious blow to the Korean people’s faith in their armed forces. If the military attempts to sweep anything under the carpet this time, trust will hit rock bottom.
If a North Korean spy had been on the boat returning to the North, what would we have done? If it it this easy to get from South Korea to North Korea, imagine how much easy it would be for North Korean troops to invade the South.
This prospect should instill a great deal of fear. The forces must take a long, hard look at the incident and find those responsible. They must patch up any remaining holes in the security and operational systems so that a similar incident will not reoccur in the future.
Cooperation with North Korea is one thing. Establishing solid defense is quite another. The military must ask themselves whether they have been swept into the political, social atmosphere that overlooks North Korean threats amid exchanges with the North. It’s time for the military to brace up.