It is time to resignThe opposition Liberty Korea Party and Bareunmirae Party have submitted a bill to dismiss Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, who has had to apologize for military and security blunders 10 times over his last 10 months in office. The opposition parties held him accountable for the maritime border loophole after a North Korean boat sailed into the southern waters without any restrictions and moored at a harbor in Gangwon last month and also for a recent controversy at a naval base and subsequent cover-up attempts.
Lawmakers have proposed his dismissal for the second time since March. He angered the public by referring to the sinking of the Cheonan warship by a North Korean torpedo attack that killed 45 sailors as an “unfortunate collision” on the West Sea at a parliamentary hearing. He later apologized for his comment and corrected himself, saying that the Cheonan sinking was a tragedy caused by a North Korea-orchestrated attack.
The unfettered infiltration of a North Korean vessel raised alarms about the military’s three-tier reconnaissance system. Defense authorities gave a lame excuse about its failure to detect the small vessel amidst high waves. The military tried to cover its flop up after North Koreans roaming around the dock were reported by civilians. The Defense Ministry conducted an internal probe, but that did not convince the public.
Not long after the fishing boat debacle, a disciplinary foul-up was reported at an ammunition depot at the Navy’s Second Fleet Command in charge of West Sea defense. A sailor left his post to buy a drink and a superior tried to cover it up. The defense minister was kept in the dark about the fiasco. The collapse of military discipline could be connected to the minister’s lack of leadership.
Earlier this year, the Defense Ministry dropped the mention of North Korea as an enemy in its annual white paper. Our soldiers are confused about who they are fighting against. The Defense Ministry has yet to issue its analysis on the North Korean launch of a short-range missile in May.
The military no longer has any intelligence about developments in the North after an inter-Korean military agreement on nonaggression was signed last year. North Korea has been conducting regular drills in winter and summer, and yet the defense military does not share any new information. Minister Jeong must resign if he has to make an apology every month.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 16, Page 30