Crisis management needs repairRecently serious changes have been made in the security environment of the Korean Peninsula.
South Korea and the United States agreed on the transfer of wartime control of South Korean troops after heated debates while the United States, Japan and Australia have been holding security talks in a trilateral strategic dialogue system, excluding South Korea.
Such changes urge South Korea to reconsider and improve its national crisis management system. It is not too much to say that the country has enjoyed a free ride for the past 50 years in managing its security by depending on the South Korea-U.S. joint security crisis management system. But due to the changes, South Korea now has to establish its own independent system.
To survive in international society, where the national interest is all that matters, it is necessary to establish an independent system commensurate with the country’s international status as one of the world’s largest economies that could reduce instability and uncertainty about the country’s security.
South Korea’s current national crisis management is maintained in separate systems, not in a comprehensive security system. The inefficiency caused by spending money, time, effort and resources in overlapping security operations in separate systems is too high.
The country’s current crisis management system has four problems:
1. Each sector operates based upon a different definition of crisis, posing obstacles in implementing laws and managing organizations.
2. The inefficiency caused by maintaining diverse crisis management organizations is too great. For instance, the National Emergency Planning Commission prepares for war; the National Emergency Management Agency deals with natural disasters; the National Security Council governs crisis management; and the National Intelligence Service fights against terrorism. Thus, the organizations are systemically limited in their ability to set up unified control over a crisis and join forces to tackle an emergency situation.
3. There is a shortage of experts specializing in crisis management. This is the result of the country’s dependence on other countries and lack of interest in nurturing human resources with experience and knowledge.
4. The country is lacking ability in information gathering. It is impossible for the South Korea to independently manage national crises with the information and limited pool of professionals it currently retains.
To solve these problems and to establish a national crisis management system that would efficiently deal with complicated and diverse national threats, the country needs to unify crisis management for wartime and peacetime. For this goal, crisis should be redefined so that all the people in the country agree on one definition. The government as well as experts should cooperate on this.
In addition, currently separate laws governing crisis management should be unified so that divided organizations, functions and crisis management drills would be unified as well. In particular, the president has to directly control the organizations and drills.
Finding ways to nurture professionals and set up a system to collect information are also important tasks. They should be approached with a long-term perspective in relation to the reform of the country’s military organization and to the strengthening of the country’s defense power.
Sun Tzu, an ancient Chinese military strategist, said, “Do not believe that a crisis will not occur and believe that there are ways to prepare for a crisis.”
His words show what the country, with its embarrassing history of being encroached upon by outside forces because it was not well prepared in peacetime, needs to do in the current changing security environment.
National Emergency Planning Commission