Updated October. 16, 2012 23:33
Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Jung Seung-jo were informed of a North Korean soldier`s "knock-knock" defection Oct. 3, one day after the incident in Goseong, Gangwon Province.
Jung claimed he had been debriefed about the defection Wednesday last week through surveillance camera and learned of the soldier simply knocking on a South Korean serviceman`s barrack door.
The Defense Ministry on Monday released a formal apology over its sloppiness in vigilance and announced a plan for disciplinary action for those responsible before admitting to the debriefing as such. Therefore, criticism will likely surface over whether the top brass of the South Korean military, including Jung, should also face punishment.
Asked when Jung was informed of the defection, ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told a media briefing Monday, He was first informed of that Oct. 3.
The spokesman also said Choi Jong-il, chief of the intelligence office at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reported to Jung Oct. 3 that a North Korean solider expressed his desire to defect by knocking on the barracks of a general outpost of the 22nd Divisions intelligence unit in the first report on the defectors testimony prepared by the intelligence unit. Choi reported this to Minister Kim as well.
The spokesman said, (Chairman Jung) had no choice but to trust a report that had been submitted through the (official) chain of command because the defectors testimony could change later and needs confirmation. The chairman, however, testified at a hearing to the parliamentary inspection of the ministry Thursday, I didn`t hear that senior officials of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had been separately informed (of the defection) from Oct. 3 to 8.
In his apology, Defense Minister Kim said, Confusion has been caused due to failure in defense operation, sloppiness in the reporting line, and failure to accurately report in a timely fashion, adding, I deeply apologize to the people for causing concern. He also pledged disciplinary action against five generals and nine field-grade officers by holding them responsible for negligence in surveillance readiness and confusion caused in the process of situation reporting.
Notably, the minister also allowed the filing of criminal charges against the chief of the squadron (lieutenant major) in charge of the general outpost and two officers (major) in charge of operational control at the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The three officials are suspected of lying in the initial reporting process.
The chiefs of the 22nd Infantry Division, regimen and squadron, who were in the chain of command, were fired effective Monday, while the commanders of the 1st Army and 8th Corps were given stern warnings, the ministry said. Soldiers and officers under the company level did not receive disciplinary action.