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Military Exercises

Posted February. 23, 2010 09:06,   


The (South) Korea Combat Training Center in Hongcheon County, Gangwon Province, is home to the 11th Battalion, whose members are clad in uniforms similar to those of North Korean soldiers. Other battalions enter this camp every eight years and conduct an exercise under real battle conditions versus the 11th Battalion with equipment more advanced than those used in survival games. If a soldier is shot with a gun or a grenade explodes in the exercise, the soldier is encased in a body bag and is considered a casualty of war. Such an experience helps strengthen soldiers physically and mentally.

Troops conduct a maneuvering exercise at a drill site in Pocheon, Gyeonggi Province. Battalions enter the site once every four to five years to conduct charging drills spearheaded by tanks and armored vehicles amid a hail of bombs. Soldiers in the Army must serve 22 months, and the head of a battalion serves two years. Hence, members of a battalion can experience the drill at the training center once in four unit generations, and at the drill site once in more than two generations. Battalion heads feel more drills are needed. The roads before the two training sites are crowded with soldiers, who get there with tools and equipment for drills. Residents in the neighborhoods of the sites are negative toward the training sites.

Suwon Air Base in Gyeonggi Province is the frontline military base protecting the nation’s skies. Daegu Air Base is the strategic site for launching the F-15K, the Air Force’s elite fighter unit. Many civil complaints over noise are filed against the bases by residents since these facilities are in large cities. The Air Force can hardly conduct night takeoff and landing exercises and low altitude flights, the most important drills, due to mounting civilian complaints over noise. It is also difficult to relocate the bases to other regions. The military must tackle domestic civil complaints before trying to cope with the North Korean threat. Hence, pilots only repeat gentle takeoffs and landings just like passenger jets despite the need for drills under real battle conditions to foster a strong national defense.

A key task for the government is to invest in social overhead capital. Authorities have been scrambling to build power utility and telecom networks as well as roads and railroads. If the national security system has a loophole, however, the public will feel uneasy though it is economically better off. If the military fails to protect the nation, attracting investment will be tough. To assure a solid national defense, an environment is needed where the military can conduct an adequate number of drills. The public should not unilaterally demand that the government “assure national security” while at the same time complaining about military exercises.

Editorial Writer Lee Jeong-hoon (hoon@donga.com)