[Column] Integrating the military is key

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[Column] Integrating the military is key

Lee Jong-chan

The author is an endowed chair professor of Korea Military Academy and former director of the National Intelligence Service.

Discussions are getting heated over the relocation of the Korea Military Academy, which is currently at Hwarangdae in northern Seoul. But disappointingly, simple and practical reasons such as securing a housing project site, balanced regional development and fairness with other military academies prevail without a clear vision for the present and future of national security.

During the last presidential election, a candidate promised to relocate the Korea Military Academy to his hometown of Andong. The current president’s hometown politicians demand the school be relocated to their region. Recently, a former general argued that the Ministry of National Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Korea Military Academy all should be relocated to areas south of Charyeong Mountain Range, hinting that this would be an election pledge for his next run. When national security is swayed by selfish thoughts, it causes great harm to the country.

There is no difference between front and rear in a modern day war. If North Korea operates missiles and tactical nuclear weapons, central and southern areas could be more dangerous than border areas. In addition, the military command and key bases must be dispersed as much as possible due to the ever-growing power of weapons. When key installations are moved to one place and annihilated, there is no way to strike back. Therefore, advanced countries make sure that their key military installations are located far away from one another.

The United States even operates a “designated survivor” system. A cabinet member is chosen to stay at an undisclosed location separate from the president and top commanders to strike back in any emergency. It does not make sense for politicians to discuss moving the defense ministry, the military academy and other key installations to a single location in a cluster.

Furthermore, we must consider the concept of unified armed forces. The classification into the Army, Navy and Air Force originated from World War I based on the means of warfare. But modern warfare cannot be fought in traditional ways in which infantry units occupy the high ground and tanks destroy defensive lines of the enemy for the army, warships and submarines dominate the sea for the navy, and fighter jets control the air space for the air force.

Wars have evolved in diverse ways. The ground forces, missile forces, space forces, drone forces, cyberwarfare forces and special forces need to be independently managed. It is wasteful to divide military budgets among the army, navy and air force. We must hasten defense reform so that the military can be operated as unified forces while the units will be classified by their functions and receive resources according to the classifications so that they can perform their best capabilities.

To specialize in various war skills, military academies must integrate their strategies while specializing in them on their own. From this perspective, military academies should be reorganized into an integrated military school. Raising officers with the outmoded classifications of the army, navy and air force contradicts the concept of unified armed forces and other warfare principles.

To reorganize our military academies, an integrated military academy should be created at Hwarangdae for freshmen and sophomores so that future officers of the unified armed forces will form close comradeships. Junior and senior students should be given opportunities to choose specialized professional courses based on their roles, which will be taught in various locations. Wouldn’t it be in line with future defense reform to reorganize the officer training system to match the strategic concept based on expertise and integrity? To this end, the Korea Military Academy’s facilities at Hwarangdae should be increased and the curriculums changed to serve the concept of unified armed forces to offer diversified basic education.

Historically and geographically, Hwarangdae was an excellent site for officer training. No matter how far we go to arm our military with science and technologies, the basis of national defense power is the independent spirit of courage and patriotism. 
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
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