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[Opinion] “General Entrepreneurs”

Posted December. 16, 2003 23:11,   


Bismarck, the “Premier of Iron Will,” is thought of as the leading personality in the German unification in 1870, but General Moltke (1800--1891) also played an important role in military perspective. He was a strategist who adopted a modern staffing system, and he also was a triumphant general who led victorious wars against Denmark, Austria and France. He is called “The Great Moltke” to distinguish him from his nephew, a General Moltke who led the German army in World War I, and is a subject of study in modern business administration in addition to his military theories being taught at the military academy.

Army Chief of General Staff Nam Jae-jun mentioned General Moltke in his recent guidance letter to army officers, which is drawing people’s attention. Chief Nam emphasized, “Moltke only had a bed, a mirror, some exercise equipments and books when he died. Officers with morality in their daily lives are the brave ones with strong leadership during wartime.” He is well known for regularly speaking respectfully to soldiers and trusted as a reliable man in and out of the army, and I understand his intention in mentioning the name of a Prussian general one hundred years ago. It is because there are growing suspicions that several present and former generals in the army are linked to corruption regarding the introduction of weapons, after the former chairman of Defense Quality Assurance Agency was found to have received bribes during service in the reserve.

It was reported that six reserve generals have worked at three military suppliers that are under police investigation these days. The dull sense of morality of some high officials of the military is only surprising upon hearing that one of the generals in question is currently a high official at the National Defense Ministry. The concerned parties, of course, are insisting that participation in the administration of the companies was in name only and that they never had any actual involvement in the corruption. Then did the supplier companies give the salaries simply to show them respect? I really doubt that if there would be anyone naïve enough to believe this “cat-that-ate-the-canary” insistence.

Generals are representative of people who live by their honor. The reason why generals are treated courteously as generals in any country of the world is out of respect for their position. It is quite unpleasant to see the people in those positions become money-seeking “entrepreneurs” instead of keeping their honor after their retirement. The National Intelligence Agency has a regulation that one “should not reveal secret information which they have acquired during office while they are in office or after retirement (National Intelligence Agency Employer Law Article 17). Now they might have to enact a new law that prohibits generals from seeking an employment for a certain period of time after retirement. The “general entrepreneurs” have to feel ashamed for initiating discussion of this issue. If they want respect from others, they might as well first show their will to keep their honor to others.

Editorial Writer Song Moon-hong, songmh@donga.com