Probe reveals corrupt ties across military, DAPAA joint investigation team tasked with uncovering deep-rooted corruption in the defense industry said on Wednesday that it has discovered nearly 1 trillion won ($875 billion) worth of irregularities in the seven months since the probe started.
The governmental investigation team released its interim report on Wednesday at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office in Seocho District, southern Seoul, which comes on the heels of another interim report released earlier this month dedicated to the Navy’s corrupt links within the defense industry.
“What we’ve found is that the corruption between the military and the defense industry stretches over the Army and Navy as well as the Air Force,” said the team’s leader, Chief Prosecutor Kim Gi-dong. “It turns out that corruption is a chronic and systemic practice in a closed military society, one that has been passed down for a long time.”
The team added that close ties between former and incumbent military officers led to links among the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), the defense industry, brokers and the military - a major reason for irregularities. So far, investigators have prosecuted a total of 63 people, including 10 former and incumbent military generals.
Among them are Hwang Ki-chul and Chung Ok-geun, two Navy chiefs of staff who were indicted for corruption allegations over minesweepers and the acquisition of faulty parts for the Tongyeong salvage ship.
According to the team, corruption was uncovered not just in the sale of individual gear like rifles and body armor, but also when it came to acquiring high-end weapons systems, including those for submarines and helicopters for maritime operations.
In total, investigators uncovered 980.9 billion won in illicit deals, with the Navy accounting for the majority with 840.2 billion won, followed by the Air Force with 134.4 billion won, the Army with 4.5 billion won and DAPA with 1.8 billion won.
The size of the defense industry increased, with the budget for the purchase of weapons jumping to 11 trillion won this year from 7 trillion won in 2005. The industry’s exports also more than doubled over the same period, from $260 million to $610 million.
With the growing industry, watchdogs tasked with monitoring the deals were also criticized for neglecting their duties. The report went on to criticize the Defense Security Command (DSC) and the Defense Agency for Technology and Quality (DATQ) for not being vigilant enough in carrying out their responsibilities.
DATQ, which carries out quality tests on weapons purchases and development, was unable to perform its job properly due to its de facto status as a subordinate facility to DAPA, it said. The investigation team, launched in November, consists of 117 members, including 18 prosecutors and eight military prosecutors. It will extend its investigation until the end of December.
“The investigation will not stop with just punishing those responsible, but determine the fundamental reasons [for these irregularities] to innovate the entire system,” Kim said.
BY KIM BONG-MOON, JEONG HYUK-JUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]