Get to the root of the problemThe state of South Korea’s security is disheartening at a time of confrontation with the world’s most belligerent regime. We have reason to question the readiness of our country’s crisis control systems.
The Blue House issued a statement after watching television coverage of North Korea’s surprise shelling of the frontline island of Yeonpyeong. Aides had to revise the president’s comments many times. We are unsure if the top executive of this nation knows what he is doing in the face of the biggest security threat since the Korean War.
The emergency security meeting held at the presidential office an hour after the artillery attack was a disaster. Flustered ministers sat at their seats watching monitors without knowing what to say or do.
Few knew what to make of North Korea’s surprise attack on inhabited land. They only nodded their heads, listening to a briefing from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff is primarily in charge of making decisions during a military confrontation. But the recent attack targeted civilians. Security authorities should not have relied entirely on the manual and acted mechanically.
The president and security-related cabinet ministers should have made their own study of the situation. They should have discussed and planned the scale of the South’s attack response, rescue operation, postattack strategy, public address and message to North Korea.
The previous Roh Moo-hyun government had the National Security Council to address emergent security affairs. It had a permanent secretariat office. But the organization was dismantled amid controversy of its disproportionate power. The government upgraded the national crisis situation room to a crisis control center and created the position of a presidential security secretary after North Korea’s torpedo attack on the naval ship Cheonan in March. But they were of little help in a real-life crisis. It may not be just the system, but the personnel as well that is the problem.
The latest attack raised alarm bells that North Korea may be bold enough to carry out a fullscale military provocation. The government must rebuild security systems from scratch. It must employ past experiences and systems if necessary. If people are the problem, they should be replaced. We cannot afford to rely on leaders who sit and watch television when civilians are under attack.