The military needs a makeover

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The military needs a makeover

Nothing the Ministry of Defense does these days seems to be clear and comprehensible. The ministry belatedly tried to clear the name of General Shin Hyun-don, former commander of Korea’s First Army who resigned in September amid controversy about his misbehavior in June when the military was on alert while President Park Geun-hye was overseas.

The ministry accepted Shin’s resignation for two reasons: first, he left his command jurisdiction while the military was on an alert to give a lecture, and second, he demeaned his military status by getting into a drinking brawl. Shin had drinks with his friends after the lecture in his hometown in Chungju. The military was under special orders because President Park was out of the country on a tour around Central Asia. An internal affairs investigation discovered that Shin stopped by a highway rest area on the way back to his base and his bodyguards kept civilians away from him while he used the public restroom.

Announcing Shin’s resignation, the ministry said he had been involved in a fight with civilians and admitted to some media reports that the general had gotten into a drunken brawl. But the ministry then corrected itself and said there was no scandalous behavior on the part of the former commander who resigned in disgrace. In a recent media interview Shin denied that he misbehaved under the influence of alcohol and accused the defense ministry of tainting his reputation. During the briefing in September, the ministry said it was aware that Shin had planned to leave base for the lecture, but did not say so in its press statement, which led the public to believe Shin left his post without reporting to authorities.

Whether he was involved in a brawl or not, it is wrong for a commander in charge of the front line to leave his jurisdiction and consume alcohol. Shin also admitted that he should not have scheduled the lecture. But the Defense Ministry should be criticized for its handling of the incident and Shin’s resignation. It disclosed details of a scandalous incident to the media three months after it took place and had not investigated the incident when it occurred. Internal affairs looked into the matter only after Shin resigned. Public confidence in the military is already low due to a string of abuse in the barracks. The military seriously needs a makeover.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 5, Page 30

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