What the DMZ needs more than Facebook

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What the DMZ needs more than Facebook

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It's been a while since I've visited our country's front line, the unsettled border with North Korea. I will never forget flying in behind a barbed wire fence in sight of the so-called "iron triangle." It was at this site where one of the most intense battles of the Korean War took place. In 10 days of battle, the highland was taken over alternately by either side 24 times. Today, the 3rd Infantry Division is based in the area, and the atmosphere remains tense. The troops’ slogan is "Risk your life to defend the country, and defy failure at all cost."

On the southern side of the Demilitarized Zone, there are many GPs, or guard posts, made of concrete. At the points, guards keep a lookout for movements of North Koreans, and in case of an emergency, they would be the first ones to fight off an enemy attack. As a nation, we have assigned this grave responsibility to some of our youngest citizens. The often glasses-clad faces of these men in their early 20s remind me of my son and make me emotional every time I see them.

We give these men, who must spend four seasons face to face with the enemy, a comfort-able living environment with amenities suitable for their age. Even on the front line, the soldiers are provided with comfortable housing similar to college dorms. Instead of the conventional cots, everyone sleeps on a single bed. The bath-rooms and shower facilities are clean and con-venient. Barracks even have personal comput-ers, with which soldiers take video calls from their families and browse Facebook pages.

But they seem to be lacking in the most important equipment of all: military tools to fight off the enemy should the unthinkable happen. Some equipment introduced by the U.S. during World War II and the Korean War is still in use. Modern equipment like night vision goggles is desperately needed, but there aren't enough for our soldiers, even when every North Korean sol-dier has been issued a pair. Unmanned aerial vehicles have been requested to enhance the ac-curacy of artillery, but they have not been pur-chased by the government for budget reasons.

Now more than ever, as North Korea prepares a long-range rocket launch, we must ensure our troops are prepared. Countries around the world are discouraging Pyongyang from launching, but the words have likely fallen on deaf ears. Should tensions escalate further, no one knows what might unfold. Those on our front line need to tools to succeed - and I'm not talking about Facebook.

by Bae Myung-bok

* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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