firmly in place has been confirmed through an abundance of historical evidence.
The Shooting Incident and Measures for Prevention
On the 19th of June, a private first class shot a firearm to his senior soldiers and officers in GP of the foremost front to kill eight people. After this accident, the Minister of National Defense intended to resign by taking on full responsibility of the situation. However, the President did not accept his resignation. At this, the opposition party submitted a suggestion for dismissal of the minister from his position and the ruling party stood against it by insisting that the minister must remain in office in order to reform national defence adminstration. Eventually, the incident caused by a single soldier has developed into a political conflict and it seems that the discussion to establish plans for preventing such accidents is being rather laid aside at the moment.
This incident, in fact, is related to national security rather than being a political issue. In order to devise plans for preventing reoccurrences of such incident, not only the political circle, but also the entire nation must collaborate in gathering up the wisdom. It is because all of us as a nation send our sons and brothers to the dangerous and threatening field of the military. What's more, under the current situation of Korea in which social conflicts are raised in relations to the issue of who is going to the military and who is not, preparation for preventative measures of such accident is most significantly important. In order for this, analysis on the causes of this accident must precede all others.
The dilemma constantly raised in handling the issues generated in human society is the fact that it is impossible to clearly distinguish whether the issues have been caused due to the fault of an individual or due to the faults of an organization or a system as a whole. The same applies in this incident. Of course, as a characteristic of the military organization, the grade of ranks is an inevitable foundation and, unlike in the general society, life in the military quarters has been associated with undemocratic and violent aspects. In other words, it is inevitable to believe there has been a problem in the organization and structure behind this accident.
Nevertheless, the shooting incident as recently illustrated is an accident rarely occurring. Also, there are numerous opinions to view this incident as a result of Private Kim's abnormal conduct. No matter how extreme one's rage becomes, it is unimaginable for a normal person to even conceive the idea of killing his or her own colleagues or senior officers. Still, it can be seen as the failure of system for not having been able to point out the soldiers capable of causing such problems in advance.
Many people say this incident was caused due to the slackening of military discipline. However, incidents concerning military discipline signify safety-related accidents caused mainly under the status of slackened discipline. Traffic accidents and accidental firing, etc. are the typical examples of such accidents caused by slackened discipline. Considering this incident was deliberately planned for murder, it is not appropriate to approach this matter as a problem of military discipline.
Military discipline does not imply the oppressive atmosphere in which soldiers have to obey the senior officers out of fear for them. It implies consideration for fellows in arm, cooperation and voluntary submission to the order of senior officers, which lead to victory in a war situation. In many cases, military units appearing to be relaxed on the outside achieve more outstanding results in battles. It is because military discipline not only signifies discipline itself, but also the morale of the military unit.
Following this incident, what worries me is that the Korean Army, which is to exist upon strong morale, is displaying its morale dropped to the ground. In Korea with the universal conscription system, people exempted from the military service are called the 'son of god', people to undergo the short-term military service, a system no longer in practice, are called the 'son of general' and people having to complete the full term of military service are called the 'son of darkness'. What's worse, the general public's idea is that the people with greater social responsibilities have the higher possibility of themselves or their children being able to escape from the duty of military service. As an example, there have been occasional reports that the ratio of completing military service of the assemblymen or higher ranking officers in Korea is lower than that of the general public. This fact is for certain the biggest cause of lowering the morale of Korean Army that employs the universal conscription system.
Karlyin Bowman, the researcher of American Enterprise Institute in charge of public opinion research says that the American Army is one of the most respected institution in the US. According to Bowman, Americans readily believe the doings of the US Army to be right. Americans have pride in being or having been a soldier. Also, the elderly consider it proud to be dressed in their military uniforms for family parties and special occasions of Thanks Giving Day or Christmas, etc.
In Korea, the position of soldiers is being abased and they are considered socially inferior. Of course, the nightmares caused by the military coup d'etat, dictatorship and the incidents of 12.12 as well as 5.18 of Gwangju, etc. were the causes to eliminate the rightful treatment to be enjoyed by the Korean Army. Despite that, the tendency to condemn the majority of soldiers dedicating every effort to protect the country in the inferior conditions must be corrected.
I, too, served as an army officer long ago and had the experience of seeing off numerous soldiers happy on the day of their discharge from the military. To be frank, many of my fellow men upon completion of the military service left the unit happily, rather than with sadness. Where else but in the military would a person take leaving after 2 years or more happy rather than sad?
We should no more let the military to be a place where the young men aimlessly stand by the calender marking off each day spent. As long as there are people who think their serving in the military is because of their powerless parents and as long as there are soldiers who only wish the time would pass by more quickly whilst serving in the military, the plans to democratize the military or to give longer leaves to soldiers serving in the inferior conditions, etc. would be no more than just a rough makeshift.
Let's make the military as it should be. Let's make the time spent in the military not wasted. Let's make Korea a country where having served in the military is considered to be proud.
Lee Choon-Kun (Vice President, Center for Free Enterprise: email@example.com)