No more emergencies at sea

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No more emergencies at sea

Eulji Mundeok, a 3,800-ton destroyer of the West Sea Fleet responsible for defending the tense western marine border on the Yellow Sea, turned out to have suffered a sudden power outage in December last year - isolated at sea and almost defenseless for five hours. Its guided missiles, torpedoes, radar, sonar and other sophisticated defense and combat systems, as well as its communication systems, all failed to function due to the outage.

Military investigators have discovered that more than half of the batteries on the warship were faulty, causing the dangerous power outage. As a result, the state-of-the-art warship became useless in operation and came to a full stop, not because of outside attacks or a collision, but due to the warship’s poor management. It would have been utterly disastrous if the accident happened during a state of emergency.

The Navy said that the power outage was the first accident of its kind in decades. But a transport ship of the Dokdo fleet earlier this month also had to be repaired due to a malfunction in its power generating unit. Even though the ship was not intended for combat, malfunctions that stem from poor management raise serious questions about the Navy’s defense capabilities. Insiders even say that breakdowns and failures in major components and weapons system of naval ships have been occurring frequently.

Navy officials, however, have failed to come up with an adequate response to such emergency situations. For years, they have complained that they lack the resources to repair and oversee their growing amount of equipment with their limited manpower of 41,000. During the National Assembly’s annual audit of the Navy, Hwang Ki-chul, the Navy’s new chief of staff, asked for additional manpower to beef up naval forces. But his pitch was barely heard by the administration and legislature, given the overall reductions in defense spending. Given the constraints on the defense budget, investment for repairing and upgrading naval equipment will likely be deprioritized.

However, the government must not ignore these frequent naval accidents and problems. The Navy is responsible for protecting a nation that is surrounded by water. The naval and military leadership must come up with quick and radical actions. Instead of complaining about the workload, our career naval forces must commit to their role and mission.


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