Limiting despair in the ranksMany in the military are said to have been dismayed by the report from the Board of Audit and Inspection on the military response to the sinking of the warship Cheonan.
The inspectors have recommended strong disciplinary measures while ruling out all the circumstances leading up to the night of March 26, when the patrol ship sank near the maritime border off the west coast.
General Lee Sang-eui, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tendered his resignation, saying he would file a defamation lawsuit against a local newspaper that said he displayed negligence of his duty. The response by the military under the circumstances may not be proper, but it is understandable.
We also cannot let military morale remain in the dumps for long. Restoring order and stability in the military quickly is crucial. Authorities may have to thoroughly examine the BAI report to root out the faults of the military, but they must eschew a witch hunt of innocent officers to appease public anger.
The public must also remember that the majority of military forces are like the sailors on the Cheonan and Warrant Officer Han Joo-ho, who lost his life during the salvage campaign. They are ordinary men willing to risk their lives to defend their country. The people must offer their support and faith to help the soldiers pull themselves together and return to duty.
We cannot waste time laying blame. We should fix the problems and weaknesses of our military exposed during the Cheonan disaster and fill the security loopholes so as to be ready for any further North Korean provocations. We are in a time of crisis. North Korea is fuming, threatening once again to turn Seoul into a sea of fire.
North Korea can raise the stakes and risk a dangerous provocation as a means to solidify its internal hereditary power succession. The danger of armed conflict between the two Koreas is considered a possibility amid escalating tension in the aftermath of the dispute over North Korea’s involvement in the Cheonan attack. We cannot risk leaving the military in disarray.
Our most urgent task is to rebuild the morale and discipline of the military and reinforce its security posture. Ironically, the peaceful and cozy relationship between the two Koreas over the last decade has weakened the military to some extent. Officers seen to cause fewer problems tend to be promoted over those with a military capacity and strong character.
But obviously the Cheonan disaster was a wake-up call to the dangers of such laxity on defense. If our military had been armed with strong discipline and morale, the loss of the Cheonan could have been prevented.