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Era of Military ‘Experts’

Posted May. 08, 2010 07:35,   


Dr. Park Seon-won, 47, is a self-professed “expert” who has raised the most suspicions over the sinking of the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan. He headed the leftist group Sammintu at Yonsei University in 1985 and was arrested for allegedly masterminding a raid and sit-in protest at the American Culture Center in Seoul. He is considered part of the country’s first generation of anti-American activists. Called a member of the “386 Taliban” at the presidential office under the Roh Moo-hyun administration, Park worked at the strategic and planning office of the National Security Council and as senior presidential secretary for unification, foreign affairs, and national security strategy. Holding bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration, he went on to earn a doctorate in international politics. Based only on his educational background, he can hardly be considered an expert in military affairs.

Park appears to blindly suspect that the sinking was caused by a coral reef instead of a non-contact underwater explosion that the joint investigation team says is the most probable cause. In a radio interview April 28, he said, “The screws of the Cheonan might’ve gotten entangled in a net and drawn in a fish trap containing iron rods, detonating a floating mine planted by South Korea.” He based his argument on an assumption and expressed speculation. Is the knowledge he gained from working at the National Security Council an asset or a liability for him? He appears not to want to wait until the investigation into the sinking is concluded.

Suspicions and allegations over the Cheonan fiasco are similar to the situation two years ago, when anti-American rallies erupted over the resumption of U.S. beef imports. Many self-claimed experts confused and incited the public with false and groundless allegations. Leftist media outlets exploited the comments made by these so-called experts. Do such experts, who appeared daily on leftist media outlets and incited the public into believing that consuming American beef would cause mad cow disease, still believe what they claimed? The country had a flurry of half-baked experts on mad cow disease, and now has a herd of biased expert wannabes on military affairs.

Everyone has the right to freely argue what one thinks and believes, but bringing up allegations that defame others or shirk responsibility is just plain wrong. The Internet is awash with posts that defy basic common sense. The media can form normal and legitimate public opinions and help establish a responsible democracy only when it differentiates objective and trustworthy claims from all others. The Defense Ministry has filed a complaint with prosecutors against Park for circulating false information on the Cheonan incident. The government needs to take proactive action against ill-intentioned and false claims and reckless and groundless accusations on the sinking.

Editorial Writer Kwon Sun-taek (maypole@donga.com)