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[Editorial]The Chain of Corruption in the Military Must Be Cut

[Editorial]The Chain of Corruption in the Military Must Be Cut

Posted May. 12, 2004 22:50,   


A series of corruption scandals has been unsettling. A few days ago, military prosecutors arrested Shin Il-soon, the four-star general who is the deputy chief of the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command. The prosecution now says it is investigating another four-star general for corruption. Government prosecutors said they have been investigating three retired generals, including a former Marine Corps commander, and yet another four-star general, for corruption committed while in service. For the first time since the formation of the military, high-ranking generals, both incumbent and retired, who should regard honor as important as life, are entangled in public probes en masse.

The military leadership is the first to be blamed. The number of generals who had to resign or be arrested during last year alone surpassed the two-digit mark. Whenever a new scandal broke out, the Ministry of Defense said it would prevent a recurrence or cleanse the military of corruption. The recent round of scandals shows that the leadership itself is the cause of the problem. We now understand the reason why the military’s promises to clean up its own house have always ended in empty talk.

What is at the core of the problem is the wrong consciousness dominating the military leadership. While under investigation, the generals reportedly attempted to explain away their embezzlement of public money as an old practice of the military. “I can’t agree to punish the practice of yesteryear with the present yardstick,” Defense Minister Cho Young-kil declared. His remarks effectively meant that the military has taken institutionalized corruption for granted while the rest of society has put reform on top of its agenda. They also proved that the military has been off-limits to any reform drive.

The military and prosecution must expurgate corruption with thorough investigations and punishments against the generals implicated in corruption. If the military resorts to cliquishness to protect its generals again, it must understand that reform of the military can be started not just within but from the outside. We urge the military leadership to repent deeply.