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Inspection on Army unit tightened

Lawmakers of the National Assembly’s National Defense Committee visited South Korea’s 22nd Infantry Division on Friday in Goseong, Gwangwon Province, to toughen their inspection on the military base.

The 22nd Division had been held responsible for lax border security on Oct. 2, when a North Korean solider jumped over three fences on the demarcation line and crossed over to the South without being spotted.

Lawmakers criticized the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the parliamentary inspection on the incumbent administration for lax security after discovering that the North Korea solider, carrying weapons including a grenade, and passing by guard posts, and “knocked” on a South Korean barracks to express his wish to defect.

The JCS had also been reproved for failing to receive an appropriate report on the situation in the chain of command in which the division falsely reported that the North Korean solider had been identified via a CCTV camera. The second report correcting its mistake on the first had been disregarded and failed to reach the top brass including JCS Chairman Jung Seung-jo.

The CCTV that mainly monitors the ammunition chamber did not operate properly at the night of the North Korean defection, the JCS said.

The military’s security breach and communication mismanagement have created a stir nationwide and raised concerns about the border, which should have been heavily fortified.

President Lee Myung-bak reprimanded Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin over the matter, and ordered to boost patrol on the border.

Kim immediately gathered all of his commanding generals and officers from military bases across the country late Thursday, and severely scolded them over this latest fiasco.

He ordered them to strengthen security on all military bases, and issued a press release apologizing for causing public worry, pledging that the military would henceforth carry out heightened security measures.

The Defense Ministry said that it would punish those responsible for the security breach as soon as it completes its investigation.

National Defense Committee lawmakers also visited other Army bases near the 22nd Infantry Division to be debriefed on the security situation in Goseong where a number of artillery bases are also located.

By Park Hyong-ki (