February 24, 2021 13:33
A North Korean man crossed undetected over the inter-Korean border earlier this month and wandered along a beach in Gangwon Province until he was caught three hours later. The incident alone demonstrates what a dire state the South Korean military is in. On Tuesday, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the man was captured no fewer than 10 times on various security cameras as he walked along the coast, but nobody was watching until the eighth time he appeared on the screens. Twice he even set off an alarm, but the sentries thought the wind had triggered the sensors and the senior officer was on the phone. This was just one unit. What must the rest be like?
While the North Korean man was able to walk some 5 to 6 km for three hours without being detected, it then took 34 minutes for the initial report of detection to reach the division commander. Suppose it had been North Korean soldiers trying to infiltrate -- what would have happened then? The North Korean simply crawled through a drainpipe under a border fence after swimming along the coast in a diving suit and flippers, but the unit guarding that section of the border said it never even realized there was a drainpipe there. Their excuse is that landmines strewn in the area "made it difficult for troops to assess the terrain." If soldiers shrink from assessing any terrain they consider dangerous, the country might as well employ some forestry wardens there. In fact, the soldiers had been put on notice before. When a North Korean defector returned to the North last July through a drainage ditch on the west coast, the JCS ordered frontline troops to look at all drainpipes along the border, but the unit involved in the latest fiasco reported there were no problems.
The JCS said it is "profoundly aware of the situation" and pledged to get to the root of the problem. But that is what it says after every debacle -- it said it when the North Korean defector returned to the North last year; when a North Korean fishing boat reached deep into South Korean waters before it was detected two years ago; and when a naval base on Jeju Island became the stomping grounds of protesters; when the Capital Defense Command was breached by a drunk; and when a naval base in Jinhae was infiltrated by an elderly man with Alzheimer's.
Three months ago, another North Korean civilian climbed over a border fence in Gangwon Province and no alarms were triggered at all. Last year, detection equipment sensed a person seven times as he crossed over the border to North Korea, but the military found out about the breach only after the North announced it. And yet this same military thinks it can gain wartime operational control of all troops here, including the U.S. Forces Korea. Never mind that it does not have a single nuclear weapon, it cannot even man its own security cameras. Why on earth would the U.S. agree to place its troops under the control of such fools.
The country's defense is plagued by farcical incompetence. Experts have pointed out that the government's envisioned light aircraft carrier will be useless since South Korea has plenty of bases on land where fighter planes can take off and land, but the logic is that South Korea needs a light aircraft carrier because Japan is building one. Of course it will cost trillions of won in taxes, but the only visible role it will play is for show at naval events. All the while not one high-ranking military officer seems to be voicing opposition. While the president is busy trying to court North Korea, the military is sinking into a morass in indiscipline and incompetence. President Mon Jae-in claims he wants to protect the country through dialogue rather than firepower, but what if the enemy is not listening? Now he has sunk so low he wants to ask North Korea for "permission" to conduct joint drills with the U.S. military. It is not surprising to hear a former USFK commander warn of the "great risk" of South Korean people "falling under the North Korean regime."
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