It is common knowledge that the defense industry around the world is vulnerable to corruption. Korea is no exception, and there have been big and small scandals involving corrupt officials, generals and dirty contractors. Yet, the announcement on the latest case is beyond comprehension.
The Defense Agency for Technology and Quality said its investigation had found that 241 local defense contractors fabricated or doctored about 2,800 test results of parts and materials for military equipment.
These parts and materials were not just boots and kimchi. They included brake discs for KF-16 jet fighters and window gears for the Korean-developed Surion utility helicopters. This indiscriminate forgery of test results spread to other key military equipment such as K-2 tanks, K-21 armored vehicles and K-9 self-propelled howitzers.
The DATQ findings are based on the inspection of 280,199 items provided by parts and materials suppliers during the last seven years. The across-the-board inspection was prompted by a probe last November, which found that 34 companies had been involved in 125 irregularities.
The latest DATQ announcement came on the heels of similar scandals involving parts used in Korean nuclear power plants and high-speed trains. Anyone with even the vaguest safety awareness would worry that faulty or substandard parts in nuclear reactors, bullet trains and military equipment could cause mass casualties and endanger national security.
The DATQ said that although the parts and materials didn’t seriously damage or affect the military equipment, it would recall all items in question and replace them with qualified products.
A statement like this proves that the agency still does not realize the gravity of the widespread forgery and irregularities. These crimes could have put the lives of our beloved men and women in uniform in danger and made them vulnerable if they were involved in armed conflict.
The prosecution should leave no one unpunished in this crime against vital national interests. It goes without saying that there should be a prompt and drastic overhaul of the military procurement and auditing systems.