The prosecutor and the general
The author is a columnist of the Joongang Ilbo.
If a prosecutor has honor, so does a general. The determination of prosecutor Cheon Jae-in, who asserted the guilt of former Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin, and the protests of Kim, who held on to the honor of a general, crossed paths at Room 235 of the Seoul Central District Court last Friday.
The final trial on Kim’s charges of political intervention and abuse of authority was held. The prosecutor demanded seven years of imprisonment, the highest sentence allowed by the law. The ruling will be made by Justice Kim Tae-eob on February 21.
The final trial ended after sunset. The final statement of Kim is worth making history, regardless of the fate he is facing. He claimed the honor of a general is not personal, but is due to the conscience of the military to protect the people.
“For 47 years, I thought protecting the people was a vocation from the heavens. I did not work for the administration. My goal was creating a strong military,” he said. “In December 2010, right after the sinking of naval vessel Cheonan and provocation on Yeonpyeong Island, I was appointed as the Minister of Defense with a heavy heart.”
Nine years ago, the first command letter from the minister to the soldiers included the same expression. Before this expression, a war poem by Admiral Yi Sun-sin before the Battle of Noryang read, “If I can drive out the enemy, I have no regrets dying now.” Admiral Yi was killed in the Battle of Noryang. I learned Kim lived alone in his Hannam-dong residence for the first year and a half of his term without his family.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un feared Kim Kwan-jin. Kim Kwan-jin implemented three retaliation measures in the regular drills, “striking provocation origin, “attacking the enemy command,” and “action first, report next.”
Kim Jong-un was stressed by the success of the Gulf of Aden operation, backed by the overwhelming and precise military capacity and solid response of the South Korean Navy in the West Sea. Kim Kwan-jin was the Blue House National Security Advisor when two Korean soldiers stepped on a wooden mine in 2015. When South Korean soldiers fired during the confrontation, Kim Jong-un took a step back and expressed regret in writing.
In his statement, Kim Kwan-jin said, “I never had personal or political intention. I never imagined to stand in trail for this issue, as I always stressed political neutrality to the subordinates. I ask for generosity to my subordinates.”
The administration has changed, and the defense minister who always thought about deterrence against North Korea is standing trial for being a corrupt political soldier who meddled with domestic elections.
The prosecutor of the new administration argued that the military should not respond to posts that are not proven to be ordered by North Korea in cyberwarfare. Does this mean that the South Korean military’s online responses need to be investigated by North Korea? If so, nearly all psychological warfare would be illegal and the Ministry of Defense cannot operate its cybercommand. Who will be responsible for national security in the age of cyberwarfare?
A prosecutor should not yield in an investigation like a hunting leopard. It is similar to a general who retaliates against enemy attacks with determination. But the world has changed, and prosecutors are investigating too many generals that punished their enemies. A general killed himself. A leopard-like prosecutor is great, but I do not think the choice of game is right.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 11, Page 30