A crime against the nation
The Board of Audit and Inspection asked the Ministry of National Defense to consider dismissing the Navy’s chief of staff to take responsibility for the acquisition of faulty parts for the Tongyeong, the problematic rescue and salvage ship.
According to the government watchdog, Navy Chief of Staff Hwang Ki-chul was in charge of selecting the shoddy sonar system for the rescue ship while he served as the chief of the Naval Ships Procurement Department at the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) and was negligent when approving the purchase.
As a result, a type of sonar system that has not been in use since the 1970s, was installed in the 3,500-ton ship. The system, worth 200 million won ($181,400), actually ended up costing 4.1 billion won due to document fabrications from procurement authorities and agents. The faulty underwater search system meant the Tonyeong was no help in the Sewol ferry rescue operations.
Even if Hwang wasn’t directly involved, he must answer for these irregularities. He is unreliable as a commander of the Navy, and if he retains his seat, the board’s findings will have been in vain. The Board of Audit and Inspection advised the Navy chief to demand stricter scrutiny in reviewing and approving equipment procurements. But this advice directly applies to the current chief of staff. We cannot have a person who is irresponsible and sloppy in his duty responsible for protecting our seas.
But the problem doesn’t just lie with the Navy. The Air Force has also been at the center of controversy over its KF-16 jet modernization program. The project, budgeted at 1.75 trillion won was put on hold after BAE Systems demanded to increase the contract price by up to 800 billion won. DAPA is considering signing a new contract with Lockheed Martin instead but stands to lose 62 billion won for killing the deal with BAE. The deal was negotiated under the U.S. foreign military sales program.
In arms deals with the United States, Korea is often not assertive enough even though it’s the buyer. Last year, the BOA found that, in arms procurement deals through the U.S. foreign military sales program, Korea paid for equipment that was not delivered or cost more than the charged amount. The Tongyeong needs an extra 50 billion won to properly function, and tax money has been wasted because of corrupt and incompetent military officials. Corruption in arms deals must be regarded as a crime against the nation.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 18, Page 34