[Viewpoint] Defeat the defeatists
South Korea’s society responds in two ways to military aggression from North Korea. One reaction is a kind of fear that refuses to believe a war can take place in the first place, followed by dread of what would happen if North Korea really did attack.
The other reaction is confidence that the North Korean Army is no match for ours and that our military can overwhelmingly defeat the North if it attempts a provocation. The latter attitude is what will help shape the history of the Korean Peninsula in a positive direction.
The success of a total war in modern times is usually determined in the air. When the United States launched a campaign to free Iraq from Saddam Hussein’s regime in March 2003, it started its invasion with systematically organized air raids.
Strategic bombing from U.S. aircraft precisely aimed at the bunker sheltering the Hussein family, military commands and communication networks, and air, radar and missile bases.
Most of the targets were destroyed within days, immediately demoralizing the country’s air and military capacities. In just two days, Iraq’s major port city of Basra was occupied, and Baghdad fell to U.S. ground forces in just 15 days.
If a war breaks out on the Korean Peninsula, the joint Korean and U.S. air forces will strike at thousands of targets in North Korea. They will likely first fly EC-130 Commando Solo aircraft for psychological operations and intruders like EA-6B prowlers to disrupt communications and radar networks in North Korea.
The AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARM) of the joint Korean and U.S. air forces will detect and destroy North Korea’s radar antennas or transmitters. Then, fighter bombers like F-22s, F-15s and F-16s will follow to fire cruise missiles, precision lasers and GPS-guided bombs to destroy targets in North Korea.
The joint command would fly more than 2,000 sorties a day during the early part of a campaign. They would overwhelm North Korean forces in munitions and capacity. South Korea owns 160 F-16 jet fighters and 39 more advanced F-15 fighters. North Korea has many jet fighters, but most are outdated.
North Korea owns none of the recently developed F-15 fighters and around 20 MiG-29 fighters developed in the 1970s. It lacks all high-tech capabilities like the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), aircraft for electronic warfare and munitions like HARMs, capable of destroying enemy radar transmissions.
South Korea’s former and acting air force commanders all express confidence that we would control the air space over Pyongyang and Wonsan within three days of a military campaign. In three days, at least 70 percent of North Korea’s long-range missiles would be wiped out.
No doubt all categories of military force - the navy, marine, army and special infantry - are important. But in modern war campaigns, the role of the air forces is crucial; if an air campaign succeeds, the rest will be more or less taken care of.
The threat of North Korea’s nuclear, biochemical and special infantry is also overstated to some extent. Even if North Korea has succeeded in developing nuclear bombs, it lacks modern aircraft to carry them. The aircraft are at the northern tip of North Korea and allied forces can destroy them at their base or in the air.
Using nuclear bombs would be suicidal. North Korean leaders would have to stake their lives to resort to such an extremity. Damage from biochemical and infantry attacks can also be minimized if the public acts calmly and goes to air-raid shelters.
There may be some among the public who question our military capacity after our forces failed to detect a midsized submarine, or defer the attack on the Cheonan. But with its torpedo attack, North Korea was like a cowardly hyena biting the toe of a sleeping lion. Just because the hyena manages to pounce on the lion, it doesn’t mean it can defeat it.
A F-15K fighter costs $100 million, more than a year’s revenue from the Kaesong Industrial Complex and the Mount Kumgang resort combined. South Korea owns 39 units of these fighters and will add 21 more soon. The gross domestic product of the South eclipses the North’s by 40 times. A year’s net profit of around 15 trillion to 16 trillion won ($12.5 billion to $13.3 billion) by Samsung Electronics alone could completely rebuild the entire North Korean economy. North Korea, in short, is no match for South Korea.
Of course, military force is the last resort. But we must have faith in our state’s ability, remain staunch when North Korean propaganda says it can wipe out the South, and act in resolution. Then we will gain control over the fate of this land.
To doubt our country’s ability and overstate the North’s is a form of cowardice. Such weakness is an insult to our ancestors who devoted their lives to building this country to the level it has reached today.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Kim Jin