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[Editorial] Defense Minister Concerns

Posted August. 19, 2006 03:02,   


Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung was well known for his in-depth knowledge about American affairs when he was a high-profile official at the Korean navy. He well recognized the significance of the Korea-U.S. partnership and combined military drills by working as a navy commander. Given that, it was not pleasing to see that he has changed his comments four times on the issue of wartime command control at the National Assembly Defense Committee on August 17.

He first said that the system of ROK-U.S. combined command forces is tantamount to the violation of military sovereignty, but when his comments met strong criticism from assemblymen, he played down his words by saying that his words could be interpreted as the country’s self-defense being restricted. He went too far, however, by adding, “I cannot understand why some people link the violation of self-defense to the transfer of wartime control.” In response to his language, some assemblymen jumped on him and questioned, “Do you believe that the president’s statement was wrong?” He responded that the president’s words were indeed as they were intended. In turn, he completely changed his original statements’ meaning during the war of words.

However, we cannot pretend to understand his embattled situation in which he was stuck between the favor of the president’s code and his values as military personnel. It is fair to say that Koreans feel unsafe by seeing his wavering convictions, as he is responsible for the safety and life of the public.

He retired from the military as a vice chief of naval operations under the Kim Dae-jung administration, but has climbed to the position of defense minister through a chief of the emergency planning and defense advisor to the president. He is also the president’s senior alumnus of Busan Commercial High School. Probably thanks to this connection, the president threw his weight behind Yoon when his dismissal proposal was submitted due to a shooting spree that occurred at GP last year.

However, the target that the military personnel should display their loyalty towards is not a president or authorities. Rather, it should be the people and the state. September issue of Shindonga, the monthly magazine of The Dong-A Ilbo, reported that the road map of the transfer of wartime control was designed by the so-called ‘independent diplomacy group’ that dominates the National Security Council with orders from President Roh. Then, the military strongly opposed it, and even then, the president’s defense advisor, Kim Hee-sang, slapped his desk in anger during debate at Cheong Wa Dae during the summer of 2003.

Minister Yoon, who well understands all of those things, seemed to make a tongueslip while trying to assist the stance of Cheong Wa Dae. Coincidentally, there is a rumor around his appointment as a chief of the National Intelligence Service in the political circle. Is it fair to say that he tries to fit into the president’s code at the expense of his own values on national security in return for the position? Amid a series of foreign reports of North Korean preparation for nuclear experiments, he should recognize that he could be a main player in threatening our national security.