The promise we must keep

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The promise we must keep

The atmosphere of the meeting chaired by President Lee Myung-bak and attended by South Korea’s top military commanders was heavy. At the first gathering since the founding of the ROK Armed Forces, President Lee, as commander in chief, demanded stronger security measures, saying, “I share the same pain and responsibility as you do.” Then he stressed the importance of a strong military, reminding those present that we are within just 50 kilometers (31 miles) of North Korea’s long-range weapons. History will record how our military changed after the Cheonan incident, he said. We fully agree with his assessment of our security situation.

A people incapable of protecting their own country are miserable. We learned that bitter lesson when Korea was annexed to Japan a century ago. Even after we gained our independence, we suffered the calamity of the Korean War. For more than 60 years we have lived with the fragile balance that exists on the Korean Peninsula. We have not been able to retaliate against the North’s endless provocations because of the possibility of escalating to a full-fledged war. Rather than soothing ourselves, we should make the North afraid of an all-out war.

To do that, many things should be done. President Lee mentioned various ways to enhance our security preparedness such as the establishment of an organization to overhaul national security, the appointment of a security adviser and the launch of a crisis management center. He also talked about strengthening our capacity to confront the North, rearranging our military command system, reinforcing cooperation between the three branches of the military and increasing people’s trust in the military. The sooner these things happen, the better. But most importantly, the military should ensure that it is ready to cope with unexpected events quickly and creatively and instill in its personnel the determination not to allow any mistakes.

Security is not solely the military’s responsibility. It requires the cooperation of each one of us. The repercussions of an excessive emphasis on security were so harmful in the past that we may be sick of its revival. But this is different. South Korea is a democratic country. Although it is not perfect, we believe our people should be proud of the fact that they have a role in their nation’s destiny.

Many people around the world now envy our remarkable achievements in economic development and democratization. To protect our nation, each and every citizen should be willing to do his or her share and our leaders in political and other fields should serve as role models. We promised our fallen heroes that we would never allow another incident like the Cheonan tragedy. It’s a promise we need to keep.
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