Soul-searching needed for military

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Soul-searching needed for military

The South Korean military, in charge of defending the world’s most heavily armed border, is seriously in question, as it proved ludicrously sloppy in keeping its own house in order. A platoon leader was injured from the misfire of one of his subordinates while chasing an armed runaway soldier, who fled after opening fire at an infantry division near the border. Furthermore, the whole manhunt operation was a disastrous failure. How can we expect our military to defend our country against a nuclear-armed and belligerent North Korea if it cannot even catch a single soldier on the run?

Army investigators discovered that the gunshot that injured a platoon leader came not from the fugitive, but the search team. The military lied when it announced that the officer had been hurt during the standoff with Lim, a 22-year-old Army sergeant in the 22nd Infantry Division at Goseong, Gangwon, who fled after killing five fellow soldiers and injuring seven others. Lim also testified that he had been stopped by the search team six times while on the run, but still got away even though he could not dictate the pass code.

Military discipline cannot but be questioned if it is that incompetent under a high security alert, which typically go off during searches for armed North Korean commandoes. The soldiers went on the manhunt without even studying Lim’s appearance. Only senior military officers back at the situation room had a photograph of Lim in their mobile phones. It is no wonder he breezed through security. In CCTV footage near the border town area where soldiers exchanged fire (amongst themselves), residents were seen on the streets before the shooting. It shows that the search squad did not even take basic precautionary safety actions - evacuating the residents - before opening fire.

New Defense Minister Han Min-koo, in his inauguration address, said a military with a solid foundation can be reliable in defending a nation. But his military appears to be lacking the nuts and bolts of defense. The military must be fully ready for all contingencies. Without genuine soul-searching and a complete makeover, the military could lose public confidence.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 5, Page 30

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