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Letting down our guard

June 26,2018
Sixty-eight years ago yesterday, the Korean War broke out. At the dawn of June 25, 1950, the North Korean Army, led by hundreds of the Soviet tanks, crossed the 38th parallel to invade South Korea. North Korean soldiers captured Seoul in three days. Due to the surprise attack, Seoul citizens had to hurriedly pack their bags and flee to the south of the country, many of them carrying babies on their backs.

As their peaceful lives were shattered, the entire Korean Peninsula was stained with blood. Due to the unexpected attack, the South Korean Army, totally unprepared at the time, had to defend against the communist onslaught almost with their bare hands. Many of our students, including middle and high school students, were conscripted, fought and died on the battlefields across the nation.

The prosperity of South Korea owes much to the noble sacrifice they made over half a century ago. But our society seems to have forgotten all the horrors and calamities its forefathers experienced 68 years ago. On Monday, a ceremony to commemorate the tragic war was held in Jamsil Gymnasium in southern Seoul. But the event organized by the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs did not draw much attention from the public, largely thanks to the nascent mood of peace on the peninsula. The government holds the ceremony each year so as to not forget the war. That’s a declaration to brace for military threats from North Korea, no matter how peaceful the situation may seem.

Nevertheless, the Ministry of National Defense is neglecting its obligation to prevent a potential war in this land. The ministry took the decision not to participate in the annual joint Korea-U.S. military exercise — the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian drill aimed at defending against North Korean attacks — not to mention its cancellation of the Taeguk Exercise, an annual drill conducted by the South Korean Army alone. The ministry also decided to suspend another joint drill — the Korea Marine Exercise Program — aimed at enhancing Korea’s and the U.S. Marines’ combat readiness and interoperability. The Defense Ministry is also expected to not conduct shelling drills around the Yeonpyeong and Baekryeong Islands in the maritime border on the West Sea.

If our military continues to skip such pivotal annual drills, it will weaken not only its readiness for future battles but also hurt the combat capabilities of the Republic of Korea-U.S. Combined Forces. We should maintain a strong military posture. History shows that when one side is off guard, it always triggers a war.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 26, Page 30