Go to contents

[Editorial] Another Nat’l Security Breach

Posted October. 29, 2009 08:54,   


A South Korean civilian passed through the iron fences surrounding the eastern front to enter North Korea. This incident shows how seriously the South Korean military has lowered its guard. A person got through the three-tiered iron fences nearby a guard post and crossed the Military Demarcation Line, but the Army found out only after the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency announced the defection. Pyongyang sneered at Seoul’s loose defense, saying, “While working for a frontline unit in the past, Kang Dong-lim yearned for life in our country and tried to cross the border, but didn’t get a chance. Now he feels extremely happy because he has fulfilled his dream.”

A small hole can lead to the breakdown of a gigantic bank and a weak link can doom a strong chain. Likewise, negligence by a military guard could seriously threaten national security. A leaf tells the condition of the tree to which it belongs. Similarly, the level of national security readiness shows the attitude of a country’s military. Examples of lapses in the Republic of Korea’s national security abound. In January 1968, 31 North Korean commandoes infiltrated South Korea and even attempted an attack on the presidential office in Seoul. In October that year, 120 more North Korean forces entered Uljin County in North Gyeongsang Province and Samcheok in Gangwon Province and killed 23 civilians. Kang’s defection brings to mind the saying that a commander who fails to finish an operation can be forgiven, but one who lowers his guard against an enemy cannot. The South Korean Army says Kang easily passed the iron fences since he used to work in the area. What a flimsy excuse. The South Korean people are fed up with the lame excuses their military comes up with whenever a problem is discovered.

Soldiers need neither state-of-the-art equipment nor advanced technologies for monitoring at guard posts. Had they had guns, hand grenades and night vision devices and strictly followed rules, they could have prevented this disastrous event from happening. Only a few months have passed since the deaths of six civilians after South Korea’s armed forces failed to report an abrupt rise in the water level of the Hwanggang Dam in the North. In addition, soldiers a few weeks ago did not recognize a boat occupied by 11 North Korean defectors until after the vessel approached the east coast.

Experts say the number of experienced soldiers at guard posts has decreased because the service period has been shortened. Officers, noncommissioned officers and soldiers are also allowed to leave the posts after a short period of service ranging from six months to a year. This means fundamental solutions are required. Those who have guarded iron fences say perfect defense of the area is impossible. Yet they must feel embarrassed over the military’s failure to discover the hole 30 centimeters wide and 40 centimeters high through the iron fence that Kang made. So the question is, doesn’t President Lee Myung-bak feel uneasy over national security?