Increase the military budget first

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Increase the military budget first

Much attention has been paid to how and why North Korea fired a barrage of artillery shells into South Korean territory on Tuesday. Yet we responded so feebly, allowing civilian deaths and the devastation of Yeonpyeong Island.

The answer is in the numbers. While North Korea has, over the years, armed the coastline facing the South Korean islands with about a thousand long-range self-propelled guns, we in the South had only 12 K9 howitzers on Yeonpyeong and four other islands facing the North.

No matter how sophisticated they may be, a dozen howitzers cannot properly defend against artillery shells from a thousand guns.

Irrefutably, such an asymmetric discrepancy in military resources has emboldened the North Korean military to attempt its heaviest attack on South Korean soil since the Korean War.

Military reinforcement takes time and money. The government has long talked about the strategic importance of the five frontline islands in the Yellow Sea, yet it has failed to follow its words with real actions by appropriating a budget that is sufficient to augment the firepower in the area.

In the wake of the outrageous Yeonpyeong attack, President Lee Myung-bak ordered a reenforcement of troops and weaponry on the frontline islands to ready the country against any skirmishes and asymmetric warfare.

The government hastily overturned the 2006 plan to reduce the marine force in the sea border area and applied for an emergency fund of 263.6 billion won ($228.1 million) to boost our defense capabilities on the frontline islands.

It plans to replace existing guns with new long-range, self-propelled guns and will add howitzers and increase the number of ground troops.

But reinforcements takes time to place. Meanwhile, the civilians on the five islands are packing up their necessities and evacuating their homes.

The government should secure the necessary funds as soon as possible and fortify the islands to make them habitable and safe again.

This time, the government must upgrade our combat and defense forces to dwarf those of North Korea and scare them so they won’t dream of attempting another attack on our territory.

We must rethink and reprioritize our defense spending because we cannot hope to reinforce our military without an increase in spending. At this stage, the critical element is the cooperation of the National Assembly.

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