A house out of order

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A house out of order

There seems to be no end to the mishaps, brutalities and mismanagements attributed to our Army. The military has been coping with a series of serious scandals in a truly dismal way, from the fatal beating of a private to the discharge of the First Army chief for going binge drinking while on duty. Its response to crises is always the same: first denial, then downplaying to finally admitting the truth when the mistakes can no longer be covered up. As a result, the Army has entirely lost the public’s confidence. Dishonesty on top of negligence and misconduct should not be pardoned on any account.

The Ministry of National Defense has been suspected of trying to cover up the disgraceful conduct of Shin Hyun-don, the discharged commander of the First Army. By completely backtracking on comments it had made just the day before, the ministry more or less admitted to the facts. On Sept. 2, the ministry said it had received no official report on Shin. The following day, it came up with a different account. It said Shin’s misconduct had been reported to headquarters on June 19 and Shin was immediately ordered to return to his residence. Shin had left his area of duty during a special military readiness period in June when the president was out of the country to visit his hometown and meet his friends for a drink.

The military’s poor handling of the death of Private First Class Yoon is beyond excuses as well. It couldn’t even get the cause of the poor young man’s death right. A military prosecutor from the 28th Division, where Yoon suffered from torture by his superiors, concluded that he had died when he choked on food. The other men at the scene were charged with causing injuries that resulted in death. The Third Army prosecutor who reopened the investigation determined that Yoon had died from being beaten by his fellow soldiers and charged them with murder. The military was also sloppy in a recent accident during Special Warfare Command training where two sergeants died of apparent suffocation during captivity survival training. The Special Command had not prepared thoroughly for the drill. It didn’t even have ambulances on call.

What is really lamentable is that the military does not learn from its mistakes. Instead it screws up in the same way every time, spinning out makeshift lies. The military needs a sweeping overhaul to establish a system to prevent, report and quickly address mishaps. It must realize that it can no longer hide things from the public. The military in the past was allowed its evasiveness and secrecy for the sake of national security. But times have changed. The military must do its utmost to win back public confidence. How can the people rely on the military to defend them from outside dangers when it cannot even keep its own house in order?

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 5, Page 30

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