Public distrust in the military has deepened following last month‘s shooting spree at a front-line border outpost, the recent arrest of military officers for leaking classified secrets and the discovery earlier this year of drones that Seoul claims were sent by North Korea for spying.
“We all should take a cool-headed reality check on the military and take drastic reform measures,” Defense Minister Han Min-koo told a meeting of about 140 key military commanders. “The public has labeled the military as dishonest, undisciplined and unprepared.”
Sending shock waves through the nation, a 22-year-old Army sergeant went on a shooting rampage at his unit on the east coast on June 21, killing five comrades and injuring seven others.
|Defense Minister Han Min-koo (third from left) and top uniformed officers pledge allegiance to the national flag as the meeting of top military commanders begins at the ministry in Seoul on Wednesday. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)|
The military was heavily criticized for its incompetence in dealing with the accident after it was later found that they repeatedly failed to tract the sergeant who fled after the shooting, and a platoon leader was wounded after being hit by friendly fire during a manhunt.
On Tuesday, a group of former and current military officials were indicted for allegedly selling classified military and technological information to domestic and foreign defense companies.
In March and April this year, a trio of small drones were found crashed on the southern side of the heavily fortified border separating the two Koreas.
“A flurry of front-line vigilance issues and the military secret scandal that came amid North Korea’s continuing military provocations further heightened public skepticism over the military‘s combat readiness and discipline,” the defense minister said.
“All the servicemen from the defense minister to front-line soldiers should get back to basics and show improvement through their behavior.”
Han said such a need to tighten the military discipline has also been highlighted by President Park Geun-hye, who said “the military should secure defense posture firm enough to sternly deal with even the smallest possibility of enemy provocations as well as recovering public confidence by fulfilling their duty fully.”
Touching on North Korea’s recent series of military provocations, Han called for airtight combat readiness as well as capabilities to deal with North Korea‘s nuclear and missile threats.
On Monday, North Korea fired about 100 artillery shells into the East Sea from a place close to the inter-Korean border. (Yonhap)