Starting all over

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Starting all over

Despite critical flaws in the Ministry of National Defense’s 18 trillion won ($15.7 billion) KF-X project to develop new multirole fighter jets with advanced capabilities, no one has come forward to take responsibility. Someone should be held accountable for the government’s failure to obtain the four core technologies needed to manufacture the next-generation fighters on our own.

Even after Ju Chul-ki, the presidential secretary for foreign affairs and security, stepped down, the Blue House said he had nothing to do with the project. We wonder if a worst case scenario could occur, in which Korea faces a serious security vacuum even after spending billions of dollars. We are dumbfounded by President Park Geun-hye’s choice to turn a blind eye to the case, defying her duty as commander in chief.

In an Oct. 27 briefing to the president regarding the issue, the head of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) - which was directly involved in a procurement deal with Lockheed Martin to purchase its F35s in return for transferring its sensitive technologies to Korea - told President Park that DAPA would develop the four core technologies on its own.

But the president didn’t hold him accountable; instead, she encouraged him to finish the mission. If an agency seriously fumbles on a state project worth an astronomical amount of money, the president must take action. But she only reprimanded him for confusing the public in regard to the transfer of technology. That’s why the opposition as well as the ruling party have expressed concerns about the likelihood of the project running aground and urged that the project be reviewed completely.

Since DAPA’s report to the president, government authorities have suddenly demonstrated a newfound confidence in being able to develop the missing core technologies on their own. Kim Kwan-jin, the former defense minister involved in the deal with Lockheed Martin, even went so far as to announce an ambitious plan to produce six prototypes of these next-generation fighters by 2025.

So if that’s really possible, why didn’t he choose that option from the beginning?

The KF-X project involves several organizations - the Defense Ministry, DAPA, the Air Force and Agency for Defense Development. Should we be optimistic that they can successfully develop the prototype fighter on their own?

If something goes wrong in the midst of a national project, the government must first find out who is responsible and start all over.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 30, Page 34

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