Generals should be alert

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Generals should be alert

In an interview with the JoongAng Sunday after the Cheonan sinking, a retired ROK Marine Corps colonel said, “No generals’ uniforms and boots are soaked with sweat in the Korean military.

There are only seven generals in the 400,000-strong U.S. Pacific Command, but we have as many as 13 generals in one corps of the Army in this country.”

His remarks are a bitter reminder of the dire reality in which Korean generals tend to settle for the status quo by just staying in office and not commanding on the field.

Of course, such a sarcastic assessment cannot apply to all generals in South Korea. But the colonel’s bitter advice is very worthwhile to listen to.

With this in mind, we take special note of the fact that President Lee Myung-bak ordered new Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin yesterday to do his best to “arm all generals with an invincible fighting spirit in the battlefield.”

As a matter of fact, it has been long since Korean generals were ridiculed as “captives of the vested interests.” The Navy and Air Force have consistently complained that major posts in the military are occupied by the Army. Discontent has also been simmering over lopsided concentration within specific branches of service - infantry in the Army and jet fighter pilots in the Air Force - regarding influential posts in the military.

Due to the structural rift, how to enhance the combat capability of the military has always been put on the back burner. The military’s ineffective judgment on gathered intelligence and poor response to the North’s Yeonpyeong attack must have also originated from such an internal division in the service.

The bigger problem may be that even though there are generals of the Navy and Marine Corps in the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the brass ended up with a lethargic response to the shelling.

In the military, the role that brigadier generals and major generals play is particularly significant because the outcome of combat is mostly determined by top commanders on the field. Therefore, they should be able to demonstrate genuine leadership and to fight with their soldiers in unison by honing strategies and tactics through everyday exercises.

The government and politicians should also stop their arbitrary intervention during generals’ promotion or assignments to other positions. Frequent noise over promotion should never be repeated.

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