Failure of disciplineIf you have served in the military, you surely understand the importance of reporting to your superior officers. Most members of the military have this command drilled into their heads repeatedly.
But in one of the most critical moments since the Korean War (1950-53), the report to the military’s top brass was late.
The man responsible for commanding the military during an attack, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Lee Sang-eui, did not receive a report on the Cheonan incident until 49 minutes after it occurred.
Three minutes later, he sent the report to Defense Minister Kim Tae-young.
This is unbelievable: The chief command control officer, responsible for reporting to his two bosses - the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the defense minister - simply forgot to send the report.
Instead, he sent it directly to the Blue House, skipping his two immediate superiors. The defense minister had to attend the emergency security meeting at the Blue House without even knowing what was going on.
And it was 23 minutes after the explosion that the Joint Chiefs of Staff received a report from the Second Fleet of the Korean Navy.
North Korea has deployed 70 percent of its military force near the demilitarized zone. More than 1,000 missiles target South Korea, with the entire area of Seoul and Gyeonggi under the constant threat of countless long-range missiles deployed along the border.
If the North were ever to launch an attack, we would instantly be vulnerable if we didn’t respond immediately. North Korea has one of the largest forces capable of attacking the South.
All South Korean citizens know that our military invests a huge amount of resources and training in preventing any kind of surprise attack. But the military’s extremely unprofessional response to the Cheonan incident demonstrates that all of our investments could prove useless if we don’t use them wisely. Can a military that functions this way provide the people with a proper security assurance?
The incident has revealed the degree to which the military has relaxed its standards for discipline. When the top officers show so little concern for discipline, efforts to train the soldiers below them are likely to be for naught. In an emergency, we could lose many of our well-trained soldiers.
Our security threat comes not only from the North but also from within the ranks of our military. The authorities should find out who is responsible for this lapse in discipline and correct it. Our commander in chief, Lee Myung-bak, is an appropriate person for the job.