The rebirth of our militaryIn the first meeting held since the top brass was reshuffled, Minister of Defense Kim Tae-young said that people’s trust in the military has plunged dramatically in the wake of the Cheonan sinking, adding that a deep sense of shame and scathing discord among each branch of the armed forces has been exposed within the military. “Our military is facing a colossal crisis,” Kim said Wednesday at the joint meeting of the chief commanders from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.
He is right. Now is the time for him to present an effective prescription for resolving the crisis. If not, people will continue to lose confidence in the military.
If the military truly wants to regain people’s trust, it must ensure that another security breach like the Cheonan incident does not recur. North Korea is now in a transitional period as it prepares for the transfer of power, and the military has a dominant voice in the process. At any time, the North could resort to its signature policy: raising tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Even though our military leaders have put our military on a temporary full alert, we are still vulnerable to a surprise attack by the North. The only way to prevent such a provocation would be to continuously tighten our surveillance and reinforce our operational capacity.
The military also needs to make an effort to get rid of its negative image. As seen in the fallout of the Cheonan incident, our military comes across as a group that tries to cover up the truth and shifts responsibility to others whenever it can. If it fails to eliminate that image, it will be unable to do its work. If it can take a more dignified, candid and modest posture, it will have a chance at changing not only its image but also its fundamental nature.
To resolve these problems, the military must first eliminate the sharp divisions between the four branches of service - the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines - as well as the regional scissions between its officers and soldiers. For example, graduates of the Military Academy tend to look down on those of the Naval or Air Force academies. In the Air Force, over 95 percent of all generals are from the Air Force Academy or are pilots. And at one time, 90 percent of all commanders of corps in our military came from a particular region of the country. Under these circumstances, a unified military is impossible to achieve.
But if the new military leadership is determined to change old practices, it is a goal that can be realized. We hope that the minister of defense and four-star generals of the four branches of the military will embrace one another and successfully coordinate the noble mission of maintaining our security.