Flak over faulty jackets

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Flak over faulty jackets

Corruption involved in the procurement of defective bulletproof jackets has been uncovered by a joint government investigation team, and we are very disappointed. According to the probe, a former Army colonel surnamed Chun distributed as many as 2,000 faulty flak jackets to soldiers of the Special Warfare Command when he served as director of the logistics department of the command. It turned out that the 49-year-old officer, now under arrest, manipulated the results of tests on the jackets in 2010.

The vests had already failed to pass tests for troops on the frontline after they proved ineffective in blocking penetration by bullets from an AK-74, a standard weapon of North Korean soldiers. Above all, the flak jackets received negative assessments from examiners after it was found that their shoulder pads hindered soldiers from taking proper shooting stances. Soldiers had trouble putting on the body armor on their own or taking it off quickly, which would surely lower their survival rates in cases of emergency.

In other words, the flak jackets that were supposed to protect our soldiers actually endangered their lives because they would have trouble firing their rifles because of the armor. An ironic situation could occur during actual operations.

While well aware of such problems, Colonel Chun fabricated the test results for the jackets in question. That constitutes a brazen act of treason, in fact, not a simple type of corrupt activity in the procurement of military supplies. A loss of combat capabilities by our soldiers stemming from defective equipment could easily lead to a defeat in war, which, in turn, translates into a grave threat to our national security. It’s important to see this case for what is it: not petty corruption, but a threat to our forces.

Considering the secrecy, expertise and the massive cost involved in the defense industry, it is very susceptible to various types of corruption. As seen in the arrests of high-ranking officers of the Navy and Air Force, it is highly likely that the top brass are behind the malpractice. Military corruption, once it occurs, can cause a fatal result in the end even if it looks minor in the beginning. After the sinking of the Sewol ferry, the Tongyeong - long touted as a cutting-edge ship for maritime salvage and rescue - couldn’t do anything because of defective parts.

The government must sternly punish any corruption involving our national security. At the same time, it must establish an effective system for evaluating the quality of our military equipment by assigning defense procurement to other specialized military institutions like the Agency for Defense Development or Defense Agency for Technology and Quality as well.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 24, Page 30

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