[EDITORIALS]Don’t fight in the war roomThe confrontation between the former defense ministers and current Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung over the discussion on transferring wartime control over South Korean troops from Washington has become a serious issue. After Mr. Yoon rejected the former ministers’ demand that he stop discussing the issue with the United States, the ministers have decided to meet again, this time to take action. The Korea Retired Generals and Admirals Association, which is led by former defense ministers, plans to hold a rally on Friday, demanding the cancellation of a meeting on the transfer of wartime control.
Since the launch of the Roh Moo-hyun administration, Korean society has suffered from a split between ideologies and social classes. Now, that social division has become so bad that the former and the current military leadership must publicly confront each other over a vital security issue. Considering the volatility of the security situation in the wake of the international community’s move to impose sanctions on North Korea after the North test-fired missiles, an internal confrontation of this kind needs to be stopped immediately.
In order to do so, Mr. Yoon must respond with discretion. He refuted his predecessors’ advice, saying, “The veteran military leaders express only their worries, without knowing the reality. I have nothing to apologize to them for.” Is that so? The essence of Mr. Yoon’s logic is that the Korean Army will be endowed with enough resources to cover the transfer of wartime control of South Korean troops from Washington by 2012.
But Mr. Yoon has failed to produce a persuasive plan for that. Although there is no hint the economy will get better in the near future, he has only insisted on an unrealistic argument that “if the budget for defense increases over 9 percent annually, it is possible to attain the goal.” One clear-cut example that shows the difficulty of securing enough money for defense is that 46 percent of the arms and munitions of the Army are obsolete. This is the reason the former defense ministers, not to mention ordinary citizens, are concerned about the transfer of wartime control.
Mr. Yoon and the former ministers should behave with more discretion to prevent the situation from becoming even more emotional. They have to accept that for the public, it is startling, even frightening, to see the current and former military leadership at odds with each other over such an important security issue.