Replace the defense ministerA sailor on guard in the Navy’s Second Fleet Command in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, stealthily approached an ammunition depot in the compound last week without permission and fled after he was detected. A navy official even attempted to wrap up the case by proposing that one of his enlisted men come forward and make a fake confession.
The incident took place only weeks after a North Korean boat crisscrossed the East Sea without any restrictions and finally docked at Samcheok Harbor, Gangwon. The public were startled at a critical lack of discipline. Now, the military have gone so far as to fabricate the case by trying to put the blame on an innocent soldier.
The case is full of mysteries. The Navy could not check a suspicious man’s movements to begin with. Yet it rushed to the conclusion that the case has nothing to do with North Korea — just three hours after it took place. The public are questioning if the military and government are overly conscious of North Korea’s response.
A bigger problem is that the commander of the naval base and the Navy chief of staff did not report it to his seniors for nearly a week. As a result, Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Park Han-ki were briefed seven days late. Without an opposition lawmaker revealing the suspicious case, it could have been buried. The act of manipulating the case and putting the blame on a soldier constitutes not only a criminal act but also a violation of military discipline. The military authorities must get to the bottom of it.
After North Korea ceased to be our main enemy, our soldiers can use smartphones and take leave on weekdays. The top brass is even reluctant to hold a ceremony to celebrate the introduction of new fighter jets so as not to provoke the North.
Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon has promised to discuss the case with the Blue House after he was pressured by an opposition lawmaker. It is very rare for the prime minister to accept such a demand. Yet the defense minister is bent on rebuking his subordinates without any apology as if he has no accountability. How can we expect him to re-establish our military discipline and safeguard national security?