[EDITORIALS]Fears and intelligenceMany South Koreans feel insecure when looking at the way the president and the government reacted to the North’s missile launches. The president is the leader of the people and commander in chief of the military. In case of a grave incident that threatens the nation’s security, such as missile launches, the president should present his thoughts and take the lead in making appropriate responses. South Korea is most vulnerable to missile threats by North Korea.
But President Roh Moo-hyun has kept quiet on this issue. He has said nothing since May, when speculation on possible missile launches by the North started to rise. He remained quiet even after the missiles were fired. Only his phone conversation with U.S. President George W. Bush was publicized, 19 hours after the first missile launch. But this is a conversation with a foreign leader, not a remark to the North, which caused the problem, or to the South Koreans who feel fearful.
President Roh is eloquent. Probably because the president’s leadership is not strong enough, the government’s reaction is flimsy as well.
Leaders of the United States and Japan received reports on the incident within 30 minutes of the first missile launch. But the Korean president was briefed only after one and a half hours had passed. Blue House officials explained that the launches of first two, short- and medium-range, missiles were not urgent enough a matter to wake up the president, but this is where they are wrong. When North Korea actually test-fired its missiles, ending the speculation about whether it would or would not, government officials should have seen the matter as a beginning of a missile incident and reported it to the president immediately. The president also should have convened a security meeting immediately. He can make an assessment of the situation with additional data that keeps coming in. The important thing is to show that the government is reacting properly with determination to resolve the problem, inside and outside the country. But the president convened such a meeting only at 11 a.m.
The people are unsure whether the administration has enough intelligence capabilities. South Koreans want to know how much data the government gathered on its own, and whether it received enough assistance and cooperation from Washington and Tokyo on elements that Seoul could not figure out alone. The people are even more uncertain about this because South Korea-U.S. and South Korea-Japan security cooperation has been weakened.