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[Editorial] An Investigation that Resulted in the Army Chief of Staff’s Resignation

[Editorial] An Investigation that Resulted in the Army Chief of Staff’s Resignation

Posted November. 25, 2004 22:42,   


Yesterday, Army Chief of Staff Nam Jae-joon announced his intention to resign, shouldering the responsibility for the ongoing controversy over the army’s officer-level promotions. It is an unprecedented occurrence. For Chief of Staff Nam, as the highest authority charged with leading the massive R.O.K. army, the severe and concentrated criticism leveled against the force he commands must have been difficult to bear. Nam is widely known for his moral integrity. It is distressing to consider the negative repercussions his resignation will trigger throughout the entire force.

One wonders how the situation even came to such a pass. Before expressing his wish to resign, Nam dismissed the accusations contained in the anonymous letter as groundless conjecture. He also denied the military prosecution’s claim that the army refused to provide necessary information for the investigation. In short, his resignation was an assertion of the fact that initiating a search and seizure of the army headquarters on the strength of a suspicious, unsigned letter was an excessive and unwarranted measure.

The proper procedure for the resolution of this incident would have begun with the verification of the letter’s contents. Although there were immediate protestations from various army authorities that a significant number of the accusations in the letter were false, the government and the Ministry of National Defense pressured the army with unprecedented vehemence, giving no heed to the fundamentals of the case. The resignation of the officer on duty supposedly settled the situation, but assemblymen from the ruling party joined the fray with threats about an investigation on state administration. It is no wonder, then, that critics are calling this the government’s “shakedown” or “taming of the military.”

At base, the problem lies in the government’s method of coping with military-related matters. When the omission of a report became an issue during the Northern Limit Line incident in July, the government ended up magnifying the crisis by taking the navy to task without first looking into the facts of the case. As long as the governing powers persist in their bully-like approach with no regard for the military’s structural idiosyncrasy, it will be hard for the R.O.K. armed forces to devote themselves single-heartedly to the nation’s defense.

It is imperative that the situation be allayed as soon as possible. In order to restore stability to the agitated military structure, the truth or falsity of the anonymous letter must first be verified, so that any corruption in the army’s personnel appointments is clarified fairly and rationally. There must also be further reflection on the proper relationship between the government and the military. The military is the foundation of our national security and must never be shaken.