Defense corruption and MERS
In October, President Park Geun-hye condemned arms procurement and acquisition-related corruption as “acts aiding the enemy and undermining security.” A joint government investigation team for defense industry corruption has made considerable progress in the past seven months.
Navy Chief of Staff Hwang Ki-chul was arrested for charges involving the salvage ship Tongyeong, and an active duty vice admiral who had headed the Navy Munitions Command was arrested for corruption involving procurement of naval operation helicopters. Ilgwang Group chairman Lee Kyu-tae was also facing a trial.
As a series of defense-related corruption cases are exposed, the honor of the military has fallen. When it is only fair for it to pursue reform, it is actually resisting investigation. Instead of repenting and examining its faults, it is trying to avoid responsibility. A high-level executive at the Defense Acquisition Program Administration said at a forum that an exit strategy was needed in the probe, urging for it to be completed soon. The Navy, which has been exposed as having the most corruption cases, complains the investigation demoralizes the forces.
Meanwhile, an unprecedented dinner banquet between Prosecutor General Kim Jin-tae and the chiefs of staff of the Army, Air Force and Navy scheduled for June 13 has been postponed. Kim had planned to visit an Air Force unit in South Chungcheong and nearby Gyeryongdae - the joint military headquarters - for Memorial Month. However, the prosecution tentatively put off the meeting so that the armed forces could focus on responding to the MERS outbreak. Since there is no desperate cause for the four to get together at this moment, and the meeting could be mistaken as an attempt to cover up the defense-related corruption investigation, it would be better to cancel the Gyeryongdae meeting altogether, not postpone it.
Defense corruption and the MERS virus have something in common: turning a blind eye does not make it disappear. Every soldier engaged in corruption for money or a promotion must be punished without an exception, and every last part of the virus must be tracked down and cleared. If we settle and compromise, the military and the community cannot become healthy again.
After Chinese President Xi Jinping came into power, he started an extensive anti-corruption campaign. In the end, 73-year-old former Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang, who had swayed imperial influence in public security and justice, was arrested last year. On June 11, the Chinese court sentenced him to life in prison on charges of taking bribes. Zhou openly admitted to his guilt and does not plan to appeal. Korea’s pride would be seriously hurt if Korea fails to root out corruption after being hit by the MERS outbreak.
Prosecutor General Kim Jin-tae and investigation team leader Kim Gi-dong have the Korean citizens, not the powerful people, on their backs. There is no reason for them to hesitate in front of corruption.
The author is the deputy political and
international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, June 15, Page 30
by CHANG SE-JEONG