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[Editorial] Blame game

Nature of issue is martial law plan; political squabbles must have no place in military

The trading of accusations between Defense Minister Song Young-moo and the Defense Security Command are escalating over a plan prepared by the DSC to impose martial law last year if the Constitutional Court rejected the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye.

On Wednesday, a day after Song and the DSC accused each other of lying over the plan at the National Assembly, the DSC submitted a document that it claims disproves Song to lawmakers. This new document contains the minutes of Song’s meeting with senior officials of the ministry on July 9.

“Garrison decree (which is lesser than martial law) is not wrong. Legal consultants saw no problems in drawing up a contingency plan for the worst possible scenario. I think so, too,” Song said according to the minutes. The minutes were prepared by Col. Min Byeong-sam, commander of a subordinate unit of the DSC in charge of the ministry, to report to DSC Commander Lt. Gen. Lee Suk-koo.

The ministry denied the report immediately, saying the record of Song’s remarks there had been falsified.

On Tuesday in the National Assembly, Min argued the same thing as in the minutes he prepared. Song refuted his argument, calling it “a downright lie.”

The ministry on Wednesday disclosed its visitor log of March 16 when Lee briefed Song on the plan in question. It was revealed to support Song’s claim a day earlier in the National Assembly that Lee’s report lasted five minutes after factoring in waiting time. The DSC denies this, reiterating Lee’s argument that he explained the plan to Song in detail for about 20 minutes, and there wasn’t any time spent waiting.

The DSC is a unit under the direct control of the Ministry of National Defense. But DSC officers challenged their minister, who countered their arguments.

This is far from a disciplined military, regardless of who is telling the truth. Who is lying will be revealed eventually, but it is shameful for those responsible for national defense to try to shift responsibility onto each other.

Both sides have problems.

It looks unconvincing and improper for ranking DSC officers to mention conscientious confession or whistleblowing regarding the plan.

If they really wanted to make conscientious confessions or blow the whistle, they should have done so earlier.

The DSC may be dissatisfied with the reality in which they have come under suspicion of having plotted a rebellion or a coup. Such suspicion as to its intention is amplified by its officers trying to corner the minister. Rumor has it that the unit has resisted Song’s push to overhaul it.

The DSC has been labeled a deep-rooted “evil” to be eliminated or reformed after it was found to have interfered in domestic politics by posting internet comments systematically and spying on dissidents including families of the deceased in the sinking of the Sewol ferry. Furthermore, it drew up the martial law plan. Calls for reform going nearly as far as its breakup are growing.

Song’s leadership has been undermined and his judgment is in doubt. He was briefed by the DSC on the martial law plan, but did not report it to Cheong Wa Dae properly for about four months upon “his own judgment” of the political situation.

If it is true that Song remarked to the effect that the plan is no big deal, his ability to judge a given situation is questionable. He first viewed it as a routine plan for a response to social unrest, but changed that view after Cheong Wa Dae announced it was a critical issue.

Who lied and who tried to whitewash the plan must be revealed. However, the blame game must not obscure the nature of the issue, which is to reveal the truth about the martial law plan.

The plan is detailed and shocking. Apparently, it was drawn up not frivolously but with the possibility of execution in mind, although it seems unlikely to succeed in this day and age.

Quite a few people take the plan and the deviations of the DSC as critical. A political fight must have no place in the military, and there must be a thorough and swift investigation and court ruling.