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Military blasted over border security

The Joint Chiefs of Staff came under mounting criticism Thursday over lax security on the border with North Korea following the defection of a soldier from the communist state.

The military is also being reproved for maintaining a poor reporting system in the chain of command, further raising concern over South Korea’s military communication channels.

The JCS said that the military unit guarding the demarcation line that took in the North Korean solider did not falsely report the situation to or try to hide it from its superior officers or top brass, including JCS Chairman Jung Seung-jo.

However, the report failed to reach the JCS after an officer disregarded a document filing the incident on the MDL, stating that the North Korean soldier had been identified after he approached and “knocked” on the door of South Korean barracks.

President Lee Myung-bak reprimanded Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin over the incident, calling for a thorough investigation and stern punishment of those responsible, officials said.

This comes after the first report which mistakenly said that the identification of the North Korean soldier was confirmed via a closed-circuit television camera that mainly monitors the base’s ammunition chamber.

The JCS said the CCTV was not operating properly due to a “technical error,” and was not able to record anything on the night of the incident when the North Korean soldier jumped over three fences on the border and crossed over to South Korea.

There was no CCTV monitoring the border demarcation line.

The JCS ruled out the possibility of anyone at the base erasing the files to hide what really happened on the night of Oct. 2 when the defection occurred, as the CCTV security system has a function that prevents anyone from freely erasing recorded video files.

The National Assembly’s national defense committee recently lashed out at JSC Chairman Jung for loosened security on the border and allowing North Koreans freely into South Korea.

The JSC and the Ministry of National Defense were also criticized over communication mismanagement when South Korea’s Cheonan warship was sunk by a North Korean torpedo in 2010.

By Park Hyong-ki (hkp@heraldcorp.com)
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