[Letters] Time for a disaster-relief unit in the military

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[Letters] Time for a disaster-relief unit in the military

The military has earned the trust of the citizens by mobilizing manpower and equipment to help the recovery efforts in the aftermath of the Mount Umyeon landslide. In addition to the defense readiness against North Korea’s military provocation, the South Korean Armed Forces have been engaging in assistance to the civil authorities for various natural disasters and epidemic control. Internationally, the Danbi Forces was dispatched to Haiti to help the reconstruction efforts after the devastating earthquake in 2010. However, as regular combat unit, without professional equipment and skills, the efficiency was relatively low.

Today, the threat of natural disasters, environmental pollution and epidemic is growing compared to the possibility of outbreak of a war. The military possesses well-trained workforce, equipment and resources. Thus, when a disaster occurs, they can be immediately mobilized without additional investment of resources. So the utility will be enhanced if professional aspect is reinforced.

In the developed countries, the armed forces have established units specializing in response to disasters and emergencies by defining the concept of the Military Operations Other Than War. In France, for instance, security reserve force of more than 1,500 members was established in 1968 and has been in operation. The U.S. established a separate military unit of some 500 members specializing in disaster relief after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. It is about time the South Korean Armed Forces create a separate disaster-relief unit to work together with the government and civilian authorities in response to various disasters and emergencies.

The disaster relief military unit requires the following: Firstly, we need to think more proactively to change the functions of the military to better accommodate today’s security environment. Secondly, the unit can be created as a regiment-sized unit under the rear echelon command, a battalion-size unit under a local division and a company-sized unit under a regiment. Thirdly, the existing military officers and the public service workers with experiences in related government agencies can be assigned to these units to add expertise and professionalism. Fourthly, related laws should be reviewed and updated.

by Jeong Chan-gwon, a researcher at the Korea Institute for Crisis Management Analysis.

* Letters and commentaries for publication should be addressed “Letters to the Editor.” E-mailed letters should be sent to eopinion@joongang.co.kr.
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