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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Jan. 27)

National 07:24 January 27, 2023

Fix our military before it's too late

The laidback and irresponsible attitude of our military is being disclosed one after another in a legislative hearing after one of the five North Korean drones crossed the DMZ and flew over northern Seoul skies without any restrictions. The public is increasingly worried about the lax military discipline of our armed forces and their lack of fast response. Could the people trust such a lethargic military?

People still have vivid memories of the shocking infiltration on December 26 of five North Korean drones into our airspace, the spying activities by one of them above the capital, and their uninterrupted return to North Korea. At that time, our military could not intercept any of the unmanned aerial vehicles. KA-1 light attack aircraft took off to shoot down the drone but crashed. The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) was strongly criticized for detecting the infiltration six minutes after that. The military even concealed the infiltration of the drone into the northern edge of the sensitive P-73 zone over the presidential office in Yongsan.

After the incident, a JCS inspection team overhauled our military's preparedness for the drone infiltrations. But the findings by the team is more shocking. A briefing by the team at the National Defense Committee on Thursday shows the three major military information-sharing systems did not work. The Air Defense Command's emergency communication system installed to issue a warning against the North's provocations, the fast-speed information-sharing system to carry out our military's counteractions, and the Military Information Management System (MIMS) aimed to analyze information on North Korean provocations were all useless. Why wouldn't the North take advantage of such loopholes?

Whenever North Korea provoked or infiltrated South Korea, the Ministry of National Defense or the military vowed to reinforce their digital capabilities and the government spent an enormous amount of money to meet their demand. However, as the drone penetration clearly shows, the military's cutting-edge equipment failed to serve their original purposes. It is sheer nonsense if our military officers had to communicate with others over phone.

The defense ministry and the military are reluctant to put the blame on field generals, claiming it will benefit North Korea. Really? The findings of the National Defense Committee call for strict punishments of top brass — including the chairman of the JCS, the commander of the First Corps on the frontline, the commander of the Capital Defense Command — instead of demoting lower-level officers.

The onus falls on the blindly dovish Moon Jae-in administration which did not train our armed forces properly. Lax military discipline and morale from its obsession for dialogue with the North must be held accountable for the stupefied response of the military. But since such problems have surfaced, the military must not sit on its hands.

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