A rude awakening

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A rude awakening

The Cheonan debacle will be remembered as one of the most significant events in the history of Republic of Korea’s Navy. This is especially true given that the accident took place near the inter-Korea sea border that has long been a home of countless naval clashes.

The latest incident revealed a big hole in our national security, and the joint private-public investigative task force should keep that in mind before starting work.

The incident has been embroiled in endless mystery and controversy. The Defense Ministry answered some questions in its briefing yesterday, but other major issues, including the cause of the accident and who exactly is responsible, have yet to be explained.

The biggest priority for the investigators is whether or not North Korea played any part in the accident, as debates over the issue are now set to develop into a political mud-fight at the National Assembly.

We avoid rumors or stoking unnecessary suspicion at a time when the task force members are to begin their investigation. Now is the time for the public to patiently wait for the 60 members of the task force to complete their work.

If the investigators conclude that North Korea is behind the tragedy, the impact will be extremely hard to predict. But that does not mean that they should try to cover up any details because of potential political and social fallout.

The same also holds for the contrary. Investigators should not hastily point their fingers at the North even when there is not enough evidence to back that argument. In any case, the team should not leave even an iota of suspicion behind by the time the investigation is over.

Whether or not the military’s post-accident response was sufficient is another matter to be rigorously examined. Our military comprises our own sons, daughters and parents, and should be held accountable for any missteps made during the response to the incident.

Failing to do so will inarguably ruin public trust in the military. No matter who is responsible for the disaster, we need to unravel every single detail behind it.

Lastly, the task force’s operations should lay out a foundation to prevent a disaster like this from happening again. Since last Friday, there has been widespread criticism of the military’s lack of technique, means and strategy. One wonders whether South Korea is well prepared for provocations from the North.

The government authorities and task force should make clear conclusions about all these questions and come up with possible solutions. We need to take this incident as an opportunity to cement the very foundation of our national security which is now at risk.

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