Truth prevail over rumors

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Truth prevail over rumors


On March 26, 2010, ROK Naval corvette PCC-722 Cheonan sank. Two months later, then defense minister Kim Tae-young said in private, “People don’t believe the Board of Audit and Inspection’s investigation and the international investigation team. What should we do to make people believe us?”

It was right after the international investigation team concluded that the corvette was attacked by a North Korean torpedo. However, just as Kim had worried, rumors over the Cheonan sinking continued that the corvette went aground and the torpedo that the defense ministry presented as evidence was a setup. There were lawsuits as well. The rumors over the incident are still circulating.

The military authorities contributed to the situation considerably. Right after the incident, when the corvette had already sunk, the military briefing falsely stated that the crewmembers were being rescued. the defense ministry released the blueprint of the torpedo CHT-02D that attacked Cheonan. But it was also a wrong one.. While the Ministry of National Defense said that it was a mistake, it only escalated the rumors.

Six years have passed, and the ministry is fighting another battle. After the official announcement that the U.S. Forces Korea’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system would be deployed in Seongju County, North Gyeongsang, local residents are writing messages in blood and stage protests. There is even a rumor that the electromagnetic waves from Thaad would affect the melons, famous produce in the county.

However, the defense ministry’s response to wild rumors hasn’t changed in six years. As Seongju was announced as the Thaad site at 3 pm, July 13, Yoo Jeh-seung, a high official in charge of military policy in the ministry, said that more than 10 sites were reviewed. Six hours later, Defense Minister Han Min-koo met with local residents of Seongju and said that the authorities reviewed five sites. At a presentation to the reporters on the potential effects of Thaad earlier this month, a reporter pointed out that the safe range in the U.S. Army manual is different from the data presented by the defense ministry (2015 Guam Environmental Impact Report). The defense ministry claimed that the U.S. Army manual was not right, only to retract the remark immediately.

Moreover, the military’s position was inconsistent, as it said to maintain strict security until the announcement, while promising to explain the issue to the residents sufficiently before the announcement. When the residents protested that there had been no prior explanation, the defense ministry made an excuse that the media had revealed it first. The government had cancelled the announcement only 14 minutes before the schedule, only to reverse it again. The inconsistency and discrepancy lead to suspicions.

Rumors feed on lies and flip-flops. Lies lead to suspicions, and suspicions trigger rumors. The defense ministry must face the public with 100 percent truth and facts rather than making up stories here and there. Only truth can triumph over rumors.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 15, Page 33

*The author is a political and international news writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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