[Editorial] Drones and robots on the DMZ

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[Editorial] Drones and robots on the DMZ

Our military will introduce a joint manned/unmanned guard system at a number of guard posts along the tense military demarcation line (MDL). The military plans to deploy drones and robots, and replace existing manned guard posts with an unmanned system to keep watch on suspicious movements by North Korean soldiers.

The military wants to pull the guard soldiers to the rear and deploy them when the cutting-edge surveillance equipment captures any signs of attack or infiltration by North Korean forces. After designating the shift as one of its top agenda items for innovation, the Ministry of National Defense seeks to complete a detailed operational plan before applying the new system to a division on the front line next year.

The military has been installing sophisticated guard systems on barbed-wire fences over the past decade. If an intruder touches barbed wires, it immediately sounds alarms for the troops on the front line. After the change, guarding and surveilling will be mostly conducted by software and hi-tech equipment.

In many cases of the past, our military had problems with instantly responding to an emergency because a considerable portion of soldiers were standing guard along the MDL. The mandatory service period for Army soldiers was already cut to 18 months and the number of conscripts declines due to ultralow birth rate. Gone are the days when our military is called “600,000-strong armed forces.” The number is expected to drop below 500,000 this year and to 330,000 in 2043.

As a result, the military had to resort to the unmanned guard system. And yet, it must not cause any loopholes in the guard system. The military reiterated “super-tight guard posture” or “perfect preparedness” over and over. It also bragged about the “perfect scientific guard system” of our armed forces.

But reality points in the opposite direction. Citizens have vivid memories of its lethargic response as clearly seen in a case where a North Korean soldier defected to one of our guard posts without being detected earlier.

In a legislative audit of the military in 2020, lawmakers criticized that China-made CCTVs used by our military had been implanted with malignant codes so that it can look into movements of our armed forces. A blind reliance on cutting-edge equipment can cause a big hole in our security.

National security can hardly be recovered once it breaks down. No matter what hi-tech equipment we have, it can malfunction. What really matters are soldiers.
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