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Nat`l Security Incompetence

Posted May. 22, 2010 08:32,   


President Lee Myung-bak told the BBC in January that he is ready to talk to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, adding he could do so before the end of this year. When Kim Ki Nam, a secretary of the ruling North Korean Workers` Party, and Kim Yang Gon, the chief of the North`s espionage agency, visited Seoul to attend former President Kim Dae-jung’s funeral last year, they showed respect for President Lee in a meeting. Seoul officials said Pyongyang begged for a summit due to its economic woes, noting that the North was incapable of waging war.

Former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Donald Gregg told reporters that after speaking to senior North Korean officials, President Lee once said Kim was not a foe but a friend. After Seoul announced the result of its investigation into the sinking of the Cheonan Friday, President Lee said Seoul was taken totally by surprise by the attack. He must have been taken by surprise, too. The ship’s sinking has shown that the South’s loose security awareness has reached a serious level.

Park Jie-won, the floor leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, blamed the government Thursday for having no clue about the cause of the incident. He demanded that the president offer a public apology and fire the defense minister. Right after the sinking, Park said the North could not have possibly been the culprit.

Park even questioned the Korean-language marking on the part of a North Korean torpedo recovered from the site of the ship’s sinking. He even asked the North why it made such a mistake. The Kim Dae-jung administration sacrificed six of its seamen in a naval skirmish in 2002 because of strict rules of engagement made in consideration of the “sunshine policy" of engaging the North. Many retired military generals say the 10 years South Korea spent under the libera Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations helped to destroy national security.

Rhyu Si-min, the People’s Participatory Party’s candidate for Gyeonggi Province governor, rebuffed the theory of a North Korean torpedo attack before the announcement of the probe results. He now talks of the military`s criminal code, demanding punishment of those responsible for the defeat. He would have been more frank had he expressed hope that the North`s torpedo attack was fiction.

Rhyu’s argument that the Kim administration defeated the North in naval skirmishes while the Roh administration won without fighting deserves no mention as fiction. So who undermines South Korea’s national security from within and cannot ditch old habits of blindly siding with the North? What side do they live in?

Editorial Writer Park Seong-won (swpark@donga.com)