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Song’s challenges

July 15,2017
Despite all the controversies at a hearing over hefty pay after his retirement, drunken driving and alleged involvement in military corruption, Song Young-moo, former navy chief of staff, took the office of the nation’s defense minister on Friday. Song has been accused of receiving a monthly salary of 30 million won ($26,432) from a law firm after retirement in return for offering advice on issues involving defense contracts. Later, he moved on to work for a local defense contractor.

Regardless of his disqualifications as head of the Ministry of National Defense, President Moon Jae-in stuck to his choice, saying there is no other candidates who can take the job. That means the new defense minister is indebted to the president from the start.

As Song takes the helm of our national defense, the Korean Peninsula is in a crisis. Across the 155 mile-long Demilitarized Zone, North Korea is capable of attacking South Korea after shrinking its nuclear weapons and by firing a plethora of advanced ballistic missiles whenever it is tempted. Recently, the North even flew a reconnaissance drone over a U.S. base in Seongju, North Gyeongsang, where the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system is deployed.

Our military was not able to detect this alarming infiltration by the drone, which fell on a mountain in Gangwon province on its way back home. Despite the serious missile threat from North Korea, our government put the brakes on the Thaad deployment citing the need for an environmental assessment in the name of “procedural justice.”

That’s not all. Even when the size of our troops will surely shrink due to the nation’s very low birthrate, a defense reform aimed at strengthening our military came to a halt. If left unattended, such a situation could easily cause a serious loophole in our defense capabilities and put the entire nation at risk.

And yet, the Ministry of National Defense does not present ways to secure a reasonable level of defense budget. We are also concerned about the new government prioritizing our forces’ sovereignty over the joint command with U.S. forces in the process of pushing forward defense reform.

We urge the new defense minster to transform our military into an invincible force our enemy is afraid of. He must help establish an efficient and competitive defense industry with no corruption. Above all, Song must do his best to ensure that ordinary citizens can live without fear of their security based on the decades-old Korea-U.S. alliance.