A sloppy military decision

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A sloppy military decision


Controversy over the demolition of a 43-year-old steel tower near the border in Gimpo, Gyeonggi, continues.

The 18-meter (59-foot) tall tower built in 1971 stood on the Aegibong hill near the western front-line border, lit up as an annual Christmas ritual. The colorful Christmas tree could be seen by North Koreans living in border towns. North Korean officials called the ritual propaganda and a war campaign, so the lighting stopped in 2004.North Koreans threatened to shell the tower when it was lit up in December 2010 after a deadly attack on a South Korean warship.

The tower that had been a recurrent source of military tensions with North Korea was torn down last month after a maintenance team from the defense ministry gave it a D-grade in a safety check of military facilities.

But some speculated there were other motives. The demolition came shortly after a surprise visit by high-profile Pyongyang officials in early October and after shooting from North Korean over the launch of propaganda balloons by South Korean activists. Seoul has been trying to mend ties with Pyongyang since the high-level visit.

But the problem is that the demolition took place without review or approval from authorities. The president and defense minister found out through the news. The president demanded an investigation into what had happened. How a symbolic move that could suggest a change in Seoul’s attitude and policy toward Pyongyang could have taken place without thorough study and approval at the highest level is preposterous.

The demolition is said to have been approved by the commander of the jurisdiction. The second Marines division said it had discussed the matter with defense ministry officials late last year and that the ministry had not opposed the plan.

The defense ministry made a report on the plan last year, but did not give it further thought. The second division went ahead with the demolition and reported to its commander, who did not bother to tell the defense minister.

How could a military division carry out a plan to dismantle a potentially-significant landmark without double-checking with authorities? It is worse because the move took place during a sensitive time in inter-Korean relations.

We are dumbfounded by the sloppy way the military does its business. The Christian community wants to rebuild the Christmas tower. The tower has diplomatic implications and must not be left entirely to the military, but discussed in a broader context including the defense and unification ministries. JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 3, Page 30



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