DMZ breach a disgrace for militaryMilitary discipline has corroded from the very bottom to the top of the command chain. The military’s ridiculously slack state has been underscored by the incident in which a North Korean soldier on Oct. 2 passed through what should be the world’s most fortified border without anyone noticing on the South Korean side.
None of the soldiers in the frontline army unit was aware of the crossing until the North Korean solider knocked on the door of their guard post to offer to defect.
The officers realized how badly they screwed up and tried to disguise their negligence. They falsely reported that they took the North Korean into custody after spotting him on a surveillance camera.
The Army later discovered what actually happened and reported the real version to the Joint Chiefs of Staff situation department, but were ignored by a general at the office.
Gen. Jung Seung-jo, the chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reported the incident to the National Assembly based on the initial false account. He only learned the true story after he was questioned by an opposition lawmaker on Oct. 10, more than a week after the incident took place.
The 22nd Division on the eastern border came under fire in 2009, when it found out about a South Korean national crossing the border to the North only after North Korea broadcast the news. Little has changed from three years ago. The JCS chairman was equally out of the loop when a South Korean naval ship was sunk by a North Korean attack in 2010.
It is a scary thought that our frontline borders are in such inattentive and lax hands. What if it had been a commando unit, not a defecting solider, that slipped across the border? Public safety would have been at risk or worse: Our land could have been turned into a battlefield.
The repeat slipups at the border are raising public anxiety and questions about our defense capabilities and disciplinary standards. The military assures us that our border security is intact, but from its performance so far, we can hardly take its word at face value.
The 22nd unit, with disgrace on its name, should be dismantled. An entirely new division should be positioned on the eastern border. The ruling and opposition parties should join hands to re-establish discipline in the military. We cannot trust the military to do its work. Shame should be felt along the entire chain of command from the president to the minister of defense and JCS chairman and right down to the lowest army officer.
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