Preparing for the worstPoliticians have heavily criticized our military’s lax attitude and lack of response to the tragic sinking of the Cheonan warship, which was destroyed on March 26 by a North Korean torpedo attack near the western sea border between the two countries.
On the day of attack, the South Korean military saw a North Korean submarine and its mother ship suddenly disappear from the radar screen. But the military did not respond appropriately to the unusual situation.
These details were revealed by lawmaker Shin Hak-yong of the main opposition Democratic Party - who is also a member of the National Defense Committee at the National Assembly - during an investigation into the government’s activities.
Responding to the lawmaker’s claim, Defense Minister Kim Tae-young said, “Based on our intelligence on the movement at the time, we decided that it would not pose a big threat to our security.”
Han Min-koo, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, added that movements of North Korean submersibles “are not effectively detected for a considerable period of time in a given year.”
These explanations amount to an acceptance of the fact that our military did not take the correct precautions after detecting an abnormal movement of a North Korean submarine.
The type of aggressive action the North carried out is a centerpiece of military strategy and aims to hit the enemy’s weak spot. It often involves extraordinarily deceitful tactics.
The sinking of the Cheonan took place in an area where currents flow so fast and the water is so shallow that no one would expect an attack by a submarine. Some observers have said that North Korea might have continuously fired artillery deployed along the shore near the Northern Limit Line to divert the Cheonan from its normal route and lure it into another area.
It’s obvious that the North had been watching our Navy’s movements ahead of the attack and crafted a thorough plan to sink the ship.
We cannot dispute the argument that the sinking of the Cheonan resulted from our military’s lax preparedness for North Korean attacks.
South Korea cannot protect itself from future attacks if the country does not make full use of its intelligence-gathering abilities, no matter how advanced they are.
History is filled with examples of surprise attacks eventually leading to victory in war. If we continue our absentminded approach to this looming danger, the North can launch an effective attack at any time. We urge our military to seriously reflect on its past conduct in order to prepare for future threats from North Korea.