Nothing new in tale of corruptionIn June 2002, officers on a high-speed patrol boat were fatally wounded and later died in a skirmish with a North Korean vessel that crossed the de facto sea border of the Northern Limit Line (NLL) near Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea.
They died because they followed orders that forbade them from making a pre-emptive attack, even if a North Korean vessel crossed the NLL.
A torpedo attack by a North Korean submarine killed 46 sailors on the Cheonan warship in 2010. The patrol ship was equipped with a sonar system made in the 1980s that failed to detect a submarine and the incoming weapon.
Chung Ok-geun had served as the Navy Chief of Staff until the sinking of the Cheonan. He was indicted for collaborating in a scam to deliver a faulty sonar system for a new naval warship. He was also charged with fabricating test results on a hull-mounted sonar system for the salvage ship Tongyeong.
According to the joint team probing defense procurement irregularities, while he was the Navy Chief of Staff, Chung cooked the test results for the problematic system with senior Defense Acquisition Program Administration officials in October 2009 at the request of his old friend from the Naval Academy.
He’s being tried for taking 770 billion won ($686 million) in bribes from STX Group to use his influence in acquiring high-speed patrol boats.
Hwang Ki-chul, who served as the Navy Chief of Staff from 2013 until recently, has also been indicted for his involvement in the procurement of a poor-quality sonar system while he was overseeing naval affairs at the Defense Acquisition Program Administration.
Others testified that he ordered his subordinates to follow his orders on the project because it was receiving special attention from then-Chief of Staff Chung.
The joint investigation team that was launched in November last year has indicted 60 people so far, including two chiefs of staff, Lee Kyu-tae, chairman of Ilgwang Group and Kim Yang, former Patriots and Veterans Affairs Minister.
The last time so many military officials were headed to prison for corruption was in 1993 following the investigation into the so-called Yulgok procurement project. That resulted in guilty sentences for two defense ministers and senior Navy and Air Force officials.
The clock has turned back 20 years for the Korean military.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 6, Page 30