The United Nations Command raised an issue arguing Ground Operations Command Nam Young-shin violated the DMZ entrance regulations, which obligate a report 48 hours before a visit to a guard post in DMZ in Gangwon Province. Nam visited the DMZ in mid-December to inspect military readiness posture to face provocations and threats of Pyongyang, and U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach joined him. Military visits, which have been made without pre-announcements, were called into question.
The UN Command raising a question on military issues is exceptional even though it has courted controversy by strictly managing DMZ entrance of government officials and items going into the area. It is even more exceptional because it took issue with inspection activities of a four-star general who is responsible for the truce line defense. Robert Abrams, commander of the United Nations Command and Combined Forces Command, displayed his displeasure towards Nam’s unannounced entry into the DMZ and ordered to review previous DMZ entries of military.
The South Korean military authorities explained that it was only an incident spawned by the complicated jurisdictional system, but there is a fat chance that it came from old conflicts between the Korean government and the UN Command on DMZ management for the past two years. The government criticized the UN Command’s strict DMZ control from 2018 when inter-Korean exchanges became more active. Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul’s plan to visit the Goseong Unification Observatory with the German government visiting group was cancelled last year. Back then, the Special Adviser to President Moon Jae-in even said that the UN command is the biggest obstacle in the inter-Korean relation while the government and the United Nations Command were discussing ways to complement the DMZ entry permission system.
The UN Command carries out a unique duty of supervising implementation of the ceasefire agreement, and DMZ control is the UN Command’s authority, which should be respected. The regulations can be adjusted through discussions as needed. The dissonance, however, could be a sign of cracks in alliance. If no changes are made, turning the DMZ into a global peace zone may be impossible.