Pass the defense reform bill

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Pass the defense reform bill

A crucial state policy of reforming the national defense system is in danger of being held hostage. The government bill to reform the defense system, which had been announced in May, was discussed in public hearings, but hitherto neglected in the National Assembly. A subcommittee of the National Defense Committee convened twice, but the meetings were canceled due to poor attendance.

The ruling Grand National Party decided to skip the pre-legislative process of debating the bill and instead opted for a free vote to submit it for full consideration during the National Assembly session before the year ends. But such a unilateral move also seems uncertain at this stage considering the uproar from the opposition after the ruling party railroaded the free trade deal with the United States.

The essence of the reform bill is to unify and enhance the operational command of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Army, Navy and Air Force for effective wartime operation. The contentious issues had been sufficiently discussed and resolved through the hearings. Yet the National Assembly is neglecting to review the bill. The National Assembly is on hiatus due to the conflict over the Korea-U.S. free trade deal, and legislators are too engrossed in working out their strategies for winning the legislative and presidential elections next year to have any time to discuss a national security issue.

Judging from their track record, politicians can hardly be expected to prioritize their service to the nation over keen political interests. But defense reform cannot be allowed to be made a victim. Wartime operational command will be handed over to South Korea from the United States in 2015. If we are not fully prepared, our command system and national security will be at risk. We need more practice and experience before the official command transfer and therefore have no time to lose.

If the defense reform bill does not pass during the current session, it will be killed automatically. And the new legislative body to be formed after the legislative elections in April next year will have to take up the bill again. Considering the tight election schedule - the presidential election will be held eight months after the legislative elections in April - lawmakers would probably come around to review the bill one or two years later. In this case, the military would have to undertake full wartime military command without any preparation. We more or less would be calling for additional military attacks from North Korea.

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