Where corruption never endsWe are dumbfounded at another corruption case involving our military. The deep-rooted malpractices in our defense contract system appears to never end. According to an investigation by the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI), a senior official at the Ministry of National Defense made null and void a million-dollar Army project to procure advanced bulletproof jackets and then distributed 35,000 low-quality flak jackets — supplied by a defense contractor with strong military connections — to our soldiers on the front lines. The official in question was a major general in the Army.
After the announcement by the BAI, the Defense Ministry promised to take appropriate actions after thoroughly reviewing the results of the audit. But the ministry added a suspicious note at the end of its statement. It said the bulletproof vests meet the standards of our military. They can successfully protect our soldiers against normal bullets from AK-74s, the mainstay assault rifle for the North Korean Army, the ministry explained.
But most North Korean soldiers currently use ammo that can effectively penetrate ordinary bulletproof jackets — such as the ones that were recently distributed to our soldiers on the front lines. That’s why the Agency for Defense Development devised more advanced flak jackets based on nanotechnology in 2010 after three years of research. Nevertheless, the Defense Ministry canceled the project all of a sudden and made a contract with the suspicious supplier to receive substandard body armor.
It all boils down to deep-rooted ties between our military and defense industry. The wife of the senior defense official is under suspicion for finding jobs at the flak jacket company in question. A professor at a research institute of the Korea Military Academy received kickbacks worth tens of millions of dollars from a contractor in return for offering hundreds of rounds of ammo for tests.
Some 29 veterans have been hired by the defense contractor since 2008. The company also obtained the exclusive right to supply the Army with $231.4 million worth of bulletproof vests by 2025. The contractor was found to have supplied unqualified flak jackets to the Special Forces Command as well.
Military equipment is a pillar of national security. This kind of corruption is an act of treason threatening the lives of our soldiers. The authorities must track down all parties involved and punish them. More dangerous than the North’s weapons is allowing the fox to guard the henhouse.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 25, Page 34