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A strange judgment

Sept 21,2017
The presidential office publicly chastised Defense Minister Song Young-moo for his “inappropriate remarks” and for causing confusion in security policy. It was referring to Song’s criticism of the president’s special adviser for security and diplomacy, Moon Chung-in, during a parliamentary committee hearing.

But the Blue House has pointed to the wrong person and direction in its censure. Song said he disagreed with Moon, the adviser, as he made too many off-the-cuff remarks as a scholar and not a presidential adviser. It is true that the way Minister Moon spoke was coarse and unbefitting of a senior public official. Their clash was triggered by a disagreement over wording regarding the military creating a special force against North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

But their rift goes deeper, as it underscores the military’s frustration with the special adviser emphasizing dialogue even as North Korea has been flirting with the red line by continuing nuclear and missile provocations.

The professor and special adviser has caused unnecessary controversy more than a few times. In Washington, he talked about scaling down of the Korea-U.S. joint military drill and spoke lightly about the row between the two allies over the delay in the full deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system, saying an alliance cannot be broken over such a dispute. Every time his comments raised a stir, he has explained that it was a personal opinion as a scholar and not the position of the government.

The Blue House also toned down his comments as “personal” opinion. But his comments make news because he is an adviser to the president on security.

It cannot be normal for the defense minister to publicly criticize a presidential adviser. The Blue House issued a rare statement to make it public that it had disciplined the defense minister. Of course, the military should have been delicate about forming a special force against Pyongyang leadership. But few would think we should contain ourselves in our language towards Pyongyang when it obviously does not have the slightest respect for us. The fact that the Blue House issued a warning only to the defense minister and not to the adviser could send the wrong message that Seoul is more concerned with realizing a dialogue with Pyongyang than defending the country.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 20, Page 34