Unwise answer to silly questionThe level of debate exchanged at the recent National Assembly audit of the Ministry of Defense’s Defense Intelligence Agency raises questions about those in charge of national security. During the closed-door session, Representative Kim Min-ki of the Democratic Party posed a blunt question - if South Korea and North Korea fought, who would win? Cho Bo-geun, the head of the defense intelligence authority, reportedly said South Korea would be at a disadvantage if it countered North Korea alone (without the help of American forces.) Jung Chung-rae, a DP member of the National Assembly’s National Defense Committee, cited Cho as saying that the South would lose in a one-on-one war with the North.
The quote raised an uproar, which is understandable given that South Korea, with twice the population and a military budget 30 to 40 times the size of North Korea’s, not to mention the enormous economic gap, admitted that it cannot fight North Korea alone. Mounting criticism against the lack of confidence in the defense ministry led Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin to blurt out that a war would be the end of North Korea.
A question like who would win should come from an elementary school student, not a legislator. But the question comes up repeatedly in order to underscore the country’s reliance on the United States, despite massive defense spending. The defense intelligence chief fell into the trap.
North Korea, with 80 percent of its defense resources positioned at the frontline, is notoriously erratic and belligerent. It has committed numerous attacks and provocations since 1950. It possesses nuclear and chemical weapons. The situation won’t be any different, no matter how much we spend on defense. That is why the security alliance with the U.S. is crucial. Even if we believe we can crush North Korea, a war must be avoided. It is shameful that a significant matter like national security in a country in a de facto state of war often becomes a subject for political wrangling and jokes.