Act First, Report Later, Defense Chief Tells Officers

      December 08, 2010 11:47

      Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin on Tuesday ordered frontline commanders to respond to any North Korean provocations first and report up the chain of command afterward. The order came in response to criticism that no one in the military was willing to take responsibility for firmly repelling North Korea's artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island for fear of escalation.

      At an emergency meeting with 150 major field commanders at the ministry, Kim said, "Try to suppress North Korean acts of provocation as best as you can, but if it does launch a provocation, guarantee the right of self-defense of your subordinate commanders and deliver a powerful response until the source of the threat is removed."

      Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin (center) speaks at the meeting of major field commanders in the Ministry of Defense on Tuesday.

      Chang Kwang-il, the ministry's policy chief, told reporters, "Under the directive, each commander exercises the right of self-defense first and reports to higher authorities later." He said the emphasis on the right to self-defense "means that our military is not bound to the rules of engagement or the Armistice Agreement regarding the extent to which we exercise that right until we strike at the source of an enemy attack."

      Chang said the U.S. "concurred" on the matter.

      In a video message, President Lee Myung-bak called on the military to enhance discipline, shore up combat capabilities and conduct a "complete revamp" so that it can be shorn of old habits and reborn as a strong and efficient organization. Lee also called on generals to come up with practical responses to limited attacks from North Korea and so-called asymmetric warfare.

      The defense minister said the problem with South Korea's military is that it has fallen into complacency due to a long period without combat and that it has spent too much time on administrative work rather than the battlefield. He ordered troops to "boldly" slash red tape and emerge as a combat-ready force capable of defeating the enemy.

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