Necessary advice for Lee

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Necessary advice for Lee

President Lee Myung-bak accepted Defense Minister Kim Tae-young’s resignation amid mounting criticism over the poor military response to a deadly artillery attack by North Korea on Tuesday. President Lee, who stood by Kim when the military came under fire for similar accusations after the Cheonan warship sinking in March, said a replacement of the top commander was needed to reinforce military morale without naming potential candidates to succeed him.

The military’s primary role is to defend our borders and front lines and deter military provocation from the North. That is why it has more than 600,000 troops and a 30 trillion won ($25.9 billion) annual budget. Yet the military’s credibility and potency has become highly questionable as it scurries and scrambles in the face of bolder provocation from the North. Our government, people and the military have all underestimated North Korea’s military power due to its battered economy. We partly share the responsibility, but the military is most to blame. The new defense minister must be aware of this.

The new defense chief has a lot of work ahead of him. He must strengthen coordination among the land, sea and air forces, reduce general-level officials to hone efficiency, and upgrade artillery. At this stage, he must transform the military and reinforce its posture on frontline islands.

Our military has not experienced combat since the Vietnam War and the Korean War that ended in 1953. It ranks have lost much of edge that fosters effective soldiers. Commanding officials are more concerned with job security and promotion opportunities. A country’s military that is stuck in de facto war with an erratic state like North Korea cannot afford to be so lax and comfortable. The new defense chief must discipline military commanders so that they stand in the forefront to fight and win battles no matter what.

The attack on the Cheonan and on Yeonpyeong Island is a message from the North that it will become even more audacious in its provocations. The North has long prepared for this campaign, while we have failed to make necessary preparations. The new minister must establish a special defense outline for the five frontline islands.

The military is equipped with unmanned aerial vehicles and precision artillery to efficiently respond and strike against any provocation from the North. We have the economic capacity to dwarf the North’s forces.
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