[EDITORIALS]Defense first, Mr. Chung

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[EDITORIALS]Defense first, Mr. Chung

The former unification minister, Chung Dong-young, said that once a peace system is established on the Korean Peninsula and the armed forces are cut to half the present 680,000 troops, financial resources to repair the economic inequities in Korea could be raised. It’s hard to imagine that the former head of the National Security Council and a candidate for the leadership of the governing party and perhaps for the presidency could say something like that.
Planned changes in the nation’s defense posture will be going on through 2020 and will cost 621 trillion won ($648 billion). Mr. Chung was partly responsible for those plans. But this year, the growth in the defense budget slowed slightly. Raising the necessary funds, obviously, is no easy task.
Not so long ago, the administration said that it would “tell Washington what needed to be said.” That resulted promptly in a reduction of U.S. troops here. It then said that a “self-reliant defense” would take up the slack. So it was easy to think that the administration was serious about making Korea able to defend itself militarily. But then President Roh Moo-hyun started talking about an economic divide, and the defense budget became the No. 1 target for cuts. The administration seems to have no interest in national security.
That talk about a peace system is based on a lot of assumptions. How can one trust a person to manage a nation when he talks about troop reductions without knowing whether peace will come to the peninsula? Reducing income disparities is important, but our national defense is more important.
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