The government plans to establish a large-scale investigation team of civilian and military prosecutors, state auditors, police and taxation officials to stamp out rampant corruption in the local defense industry, officials said Monday.
The details such as the launch date and the scale of the team have yet to be finalized, and the government is expected to make an announcement as early as next week, according to the officials.
“As the team is designed to look into corruption in the defense industry, some active-duty military personnel may be subject to the inquiry. Thus, military prosecutors would inevitably have to participate in the team,” Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told reporters during a regular press briefing.
In the wake of a series of corruption cases involving current and former military officers, calls have been mounting for a sweeping reform of the state defense procurement mechanism. Pointing to a string of bribery cases, critics have berated the government for wasting taxpayers’ money at a time when North Korea’s military threats are escalating.
Among the recent series of scandals, a corruption case concerning the deliveries of 13 naval Rigid-hulled Inflatable Boats has shocked the country.
Police said last Wednesday that a local firm had raked in some 1.34 billion won ($1.22 million) by putting some 160 secondhand parts including engines in the 13 RIB boats and selling them to the Navy between 2009 and 2013 as if they were brand new.
So far, 17 people including officials from the Navy and the state defense acquisition agency have been booked on corruption charges in the case. Police said that the boats suffered many operational problems including engine fires.
In another case involving the production of a naval warship named the Tongyeong, defense acquisition officials were found to have manipulated the results of operational tests on the ship’s major parts to help specific defense contractors bag the supply orders.
The Navy has refused to take the warship due to the failure to meet its standards ― a reason why the ship was not deployed during the search and rescue operations during the Sewol ferry disaster in April.
Amid increasing public criticism, the Defense Ministry said that it would conduct an anti-corruption education program for senior military officials at 10 major military commands across the nation until Nov. 27.
“This education will not be just a one-time event. We will continue to root out corruption and improve the integrity level of all soldiers,” said a ministry official, declining to be named.
The Defense Acquisition Program Administration said that it would seek to increase the proportion of its civilian staff by up to 70 percent, as part of its personnel reform. Currently, around half of the DAPA personnel are uniformed officers.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)