Military tightens up soldiers’ use of smartphones

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Military tightens up soldiers’ use of smartphones

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국방부는 공무원과 군인, 군무원이 스마트폰을 포함한 모든 개인 통신기기를 등록 후 사용토록 하고 있다. 등록필증(붉은 점선 안)이 없는 통신기기를 소지하고 있다가 발각되면 문책을 받는다. [국방부 제공]

Soldiers with smartphones have drawn the attention of their superiors.

As the Korean military is easing regulations on the use of smartphones within barracks, security concerns in the military are rising.

Some military units recently ordered their members to delete several social network service applications from their smartphones that link the users to news podcasts or Web sites that are critical of the Lee Myung-bak government or praise North Korea. Apps that have been banned at the military units include “Naneun Ggomsuda,” (I’m a Petty-minded Creep) a popular podcast dedicated to taking potshots at President Lee.

In an act of defiance, some military officers disclosed the orders to the media, sending photos of them through their smartphones.

“It is inappropriate for the [South Korean] military that is standing up to North Korea to log on to online content praising North Korea,” said Kim Min-seok, the spokesman of the Ministry of National Defense, yesterday.

Another military official said that, “An insult against the president amounts to an insult to a superior as was stated under the 64th article of the military criminal code, so it is desirable to delete related apps to tighten up discipline in the military.”

So far, the regulations have been enforced on an individual unit level. The Sixth Army Corps was reported to have conducted an inspection of their soldiers regarding the directive.

The move is triggering criticism that the military is encroaching on the privacy of soldiers or constitutionally guaranteed rights to political expression.

The military refutes the criticism, quoting the 18th article of the military code of conduct which bans soldiers from joining a political group or expressing their support or opposition to a certain political entity. The article also bars soldiers from any act that can influence the victory or defeat of a given candidate during a political election.

The third Army Command recently gave directions that ban soldiers from attending primaries to elect candidates for political parties.

They said the election of candidates is an indispensable part of a party’s political activities and participation in the primary itself can be seen as support for the political party.

Opponents, however, say there is no law explicitly banning soldiers or other public officials from joining political primaries.

The military is also yet to restrict their access to the Internet through smartphones, causing concern among military leaders that high military secrets could be leaked.

One soldier posted a live broadcast in December 2010 showing the interior of his Army barracks in real time.

“There are some constraints in the institution of the military that keep us from staying up to speed with the changes in society,” said an official of the military.

Military service is compulsory for men in Korea and more than 500,000 males are enlisted.

The number of South Korean soldiers or South Korean military personnel using smart phones is approximately 100,000.

Recently, the two parties have tried to come up with ideas to appeal to soldiers and their families.


By Jeong Yong-soo, Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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