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[Editorial] A Time When Korea’s Military Cadets Thought the U.S. was the Enemy

[Editorial] A Time When Korea’s Military Cadets Thought the U.S. was the Enemy

Posted April. 05, 2008 04:03,   


North Korea again threatened to take military action against South Korea, on Thursday. North Korea’s chief delegate to inter-Korean general-level talks mentioned military countermeasures. North Korea’s naval headquarters also threatened to take unexpected measures against the South.

North Korea caused a naval confrontation between the two Koreas in the West Sea by crossing the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in 1999 and 2002. To prevent such incidents from being repeated, military strength and defense readiness should be maintained to thwart any threat or provocation from the North.

What counts most is that the public and government share a common view on the North’s true character as it will greatly help us to unite in defense of the nation. With this, a survey released by Kim Chung-bae, former superintendent of the Korea Military Academy and the current head of the Korea Institute for Defense Analysis, is shocking because it reveals a startling lack of such awareness among prospective students of the Korea Military Academy.

When asked, “Who do you think our major enemy is?” 34 percent out of 250 respondents said “the United States,” while 33 percent responded “North Korea.” Surprised by the response, the survey’s researchers questioned what shaped these views. Most of the students said they learned from their teachers who belonged to the Korean Teachers Union.

These results are sobering, showing how education imbues children with pro-North Korean and anti-American sentiment. In particular, the former Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations played a key role in spreading distorted views about the North across all levels of our society over the past decade.

Their governments were at the fore of deleting the term “major enemy” from defense white papers while government agencies blindly pursued a policy of engagement. Separately, those who levied criticism against the North were labeled as conservative and reactionary. Schools were no exception to this ideology.

In an effort to correct such incorrect awareness about national security among students, the former superintendent of the KMA gathered together a group of experts and published a history textbook. The 64th class of cadets, who were taught by this book, was commissioned second lieutenants, last month.

They said they no longer think the United States as Korea’s main enemy. However, the book was not fully utilized due to an order from then-Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung banning the textbook.

People tend to retain and hold on to things that they learn when they are young. The nation saw a number of young people exposed to an ideological education that was pro-North Korean and anti-American.

A change in administration cannot guarantee the end of this vicious cycle. That is why we need to continue the social movement to correct distorted historic and national security views, such as a textbook forum which recently published its first alternative book on the history of modern and contemporary Korea.