Honor the troopsIn opposing the extension of the Zaytun Unit currently deployed in Iraq, United New Democratic Party presidential candidate Chung Dong-young said, “We should not strive for values in which we think that by selling the blood of young Koreans on the battlefield we can live well.” Targeting Grand National Party presidential candidate Lee Myung-bak, Chung said that Lee needed to answer “whether it is O.K. that Korea becomes the supplier to the mercenary world.” The remarks by Chung are hard to understand and are inappropriate.
This particular issue is one that leaves much room for debate. Whether there is an extension or a withdrawal, the influence on the alliance between the United States and Korea and the potential economic benefits, are factors to be weighed carefully. In a survey by the JoongAng Ilbo, 46.5 percent backed an extension while 48.3 percent were opposed one, reflecting deep concern on the complex issue. This is why candidate Chung can advocate his opposition to an extension of the deployment. What is problematic is that his remarks do not seem fit for a presidential candidate who has aspirations to become the top commander of the armed forces.
The deployment of the Zaytun Unit was largely based on the alliance between Washington and Seoul. It was an unavoidable decision in light of the need for us to resolve the danger of North Korean nuclear weapons with help from the United States.
Nevertheless, there was not a shred of logic about becoming a mercenary country when the troops were dispatched. The troops were under the coalition command but they conducted entirely independent operations. The South Korean troops’ wages are paid not by the United States but by the Korean government. The troop members have stitched the Taegeukgi on their uniforms and have been working with pride as Koreans. Even lawmakers that opposed the deployment were said to have tears in their eyes when they saw the full range of activities of the troops in Irbil, Iraq. How is it that troops like this are called mercenaries?
Above all, it is most regretful that only candidate Chung, who has served as the unification minister and the head of the National Security Council, made such remarks. If the dispatch of the Zaytun Unit was a move to earn blood money, why was the issue not raised then? And why is it that Chung agreed at the time to deploy the troops? How can a person who aspires to become the top leader of the country degrade the people and the armed forces? He must apologize.