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Defection exposes lax defense posture

Posted October. 10, 2012 04:06,   


South Korea has holes both on its eastern and western fronts. A military unit in Goseong, Gangwon Province, was unaware that a North Korean soldier on Tuesday last week crossed the barbed wire and came to the front of general outpost barracks. Were all the soldiers at guard posts and around barbed wire before the general outposts dozing off? Fortunately, the North Korean soldier defected to the South. Had he used a grenade to attack South Korean troops, the barracks would have disappeared. On Sept. 4, a defector crossed the barbed wire and sneaked into Gyodong Island in Incheon`s Ganghwa County. The South Korean military, however, did not know this until a resident filed a report five days later.

The military cherishes the phrase “We can forgive those who failed in operations but cannot forgive those who failed in guarding.” The failure in guarding at the barbed wire in a situation that the two Koreas remain technically at war means South Korea is defenseless. If the frontlines, which are arguably the most important part for the military, are in such a poor condition, what does that mean for other regions? The military swore to prevent a recurrence of the North’s sinking of the naval corvette Cheonan and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island. It also promised to deploy combat troops to discourage Pyongyang from committing a provocation. Given that it failed to even realize that a North Korean soldier was at one of its barracks, the military seems to be all talk and no walk.

The hole in the eastern frontline was belatedly found by the national parliamentary audit of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by the National Assembly’s defense committee on Monday. They reluctantly acknowledged the defection after being grilled by lawmakers. They probably thought they could simply hide the incident, not to mention the armed forces` lack of vigilance. They seem to want to hide their heads in the sand like an ostrich. The Defense Ministry said a series of North Korean soldiers defecting to South Korea reflect loosening indiscipline in the Stalinist country`s military, but South Korean forces seem as slack as North Korea`s. A North Korean soldier crossed the 2-kilometer wide Demilitarized Zone and barbed wires, which stretched for 3 kilometers. While crossing the dangerous border, he might have felt woeful.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff sent a team of inspectors to check military preparedness of the Goseong unit, but this matter cannot be resolved by the team alone. Other defense-related authorities need to conduct an overall inspection. They should find the cause of the lapse in vigilance, reprimand those responsible, and devise solutions to prevent a recurrence and step up military posture.