Rooting out corruption

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Rooting out corruption

The Office of Senior Secretary to the President for Civil Affairs has kicked off an investigation into the problem-plagued Korean Fighter Experimental (KF-X) project of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA). The probe aims to figure out why the military procurement agency struck a deal with Lockheed Martin to purchase its F-35s for our next generation fighter jets even when it knew that four out of 25 core technologies needed for the KF-X project would not be transferred to us due to Washington’s apparent disapproval. The Blue House decided to directly investigate the case considering the gravity of the issue.

The KF-X project is essential to safeguard our skies. That’s why the defense ministry pushed forward a massive project costing a whopping 8.15 trillion won ($6.84 billion). The total amount reaches over 20 trillion won, including local production costs. The government desired to purchase 40 F-35s - the world’s most advanced multi-role fighter jets - for 7.3 trillion won with a long-term goal of grabbing core technologies for the KF-X project.

The DAPA’s push for the purchase of F-35s while aware of the problem with the transfer of four sensitive technologies to Korea constitutes an act of outright deception of the commander in chief and the public. The half-baked deal forces the government to develop sophisticated aircraft technologies on its own or at least import them from other countries at additional cost, which poses a serious problem for our military capability. In a worst case, the project may end up going nowhere.

The crisis surrounding the DAPA lays bare some serious loopholes in the governance of the Park Geun-hye administration. The Blue House must get to the bottom of the case to find out what really went wrong. If suspicions of corruption or poor management prove true, the senior civil affairs secretary to the president must hand over the relevant officials to law enforcement authorities to punish them. Never-ending malpractices and corruption in the defense industry and the military are crimes against the state that only erode public trust in the military and help delay our attempt to improve and update our military capabilities. At the same time, the government must come up with thorough measures to avert a repeat of such cases in the future.

The Blue House should thoroughly overhaul not only the KF-X project but procurement practices in the defense industry in general. Such malpractices stand revealed. It’s time for the Blue House to fix this chronic problem once and for all.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 26, Page 26

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