Army dismisses commander for delayed response to defector

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Army dismisses commander for delayed response to defector

Amid continuing fallout over a North Korean man’s swimming defection across the eastern maritime border and into a restricted area, military authorities on Thursday announced the dismissal of the commander in charge of the coastal area where the defection occurred.
 
The military held Major Gen. Pyo Chang-soo of the 22nd Infantry Division responsible for the incident in which soldiers failed to notice the defector coming ashore and bypassing security fences despite surveillance cameras having recorded him 10 times over a four-hour period and sounding two alarms.
 
The man was eventually apprehended following a three-hour manhunt after he was caught on a surveillance camera at a Civilian Access Control line checkpoint.
 
A Defense Ministry statement said, “The 22nd Infantry Division commander bears direct responsibility for lax maritime security and counter-infiltration operations. He is also accountable for the negligence in overseeing the management of floodgates and drainage areas.”
 
In addition to Pyo, four senior military officials — one brigade commander and two battalion commanders from the 22nd Infantry Division and a major general from the Joint Chiefs of Staff — will face a disciplinary committee hearing, while 18 other military personnel will also undergo review.
 
The Army Chief of Staff will also issue a stern written warning to Kang Chang-goo, commander of the 8th Army Corps, which commands the 22nd Infantry Division.
 
The 22nd Infantry Division, which controls the area where the man swam ashore and was detected by surveillance cameras, is the only Army unit responsible for guarding both a land and coastal border.
 
While other general outpost (GOP) units guard 25-40 kilometers (15-25 miles) of the land border with North Korea, the 22nd Infantry Division guards 30 kilometers of land and 70 kilometers of shore.
 
Last month, ruling Rep. Kim Byung-gi of the Democratic Party said that the 22nd Infantry Division guards an area that is “four to five times wider” than what other divisions are expected to monitor, calling it a “fundamental problem.”
 
BY MICHAEL LEE   [lee.junhyuk@joongang.co.kr]
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