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2014-08-21 16:53
By Jun Ji-hye



The Army chief of staff’s vow to disband an Army unit if human rights violations continue to take place within it reminds the public of President Park Geun-hye’s empty promise to dissolve the Korea Coast Guard (KCG) following the sinking of the Sewol ferry.

The both cases met the skepticism that the two leaders seem to have made a decision on impulse, failing to consider the possible threat to national security that could result from the proposed dissolutions.

Chief of Staff Gen. Kim Yo-hwan said, Wednesday, “The members of the disbanded unit will be absorbed by other units,” during a debate held to discuss ways of eliminating soldier-on-soldier violence in the wake of the death of the Army private first-class, identified as Yoon, who was allegedly beaten by a group of peers.


His predecessor Kwon Oh-sung was sacked amid controversy surrounding a soldier’s death after going through a hazing process.

In May, President Park promised to disband the KCG in the wake of the man-made disaster that killed more than 300 passengers, mostly high school students on a school trip to Jeju Island.

At the time, the KCG was heavily criticized on a number of points, including that rescue teams wasted the crucial “golden hour” when the ferry first began sinking, resulting in heavier casualties.

Kim and Park’s vows to disband an Army unit and KCG, respectively, were construed as apparent attempts to deflect criticism from the military and the government.

However, in both cases, the two leaders failed to consider the side effects that could result from the proposed dissolutions.

Experts argued that Park seemed to have only considered the function of maritime rescue operations among the various duties assigned to the KCG. The uncomfortable questions that remained were; what would happen to the KCG’s other missions to patrol the seas and intercept Chinese fishing boats and safeguard Dokdo in the East Sea and Ieodo in the South Sea from sovereignty claims from Japan and China respectively?

The government seems to have failed to resolve such concerns and it was recently reported in local vernacular dailies that the administration and the ruling Saenuri Party eventually decided not to disband the KCG.

Rep. Lee Jang-woo, Saenuri Party floor spokesman, denied reports, saying “The governing side is mulling ways to effectively separate or integrate the functions of the KCG.

Likewise, questions hang over Kim’s promise to disband an Army unit, which could significantly diminish security in the area where it is located.

An Amy official explained: “Dissolution did not mean that the region would be without an Army unit. A new unit with a new commander will be formed there. This measure will not create a security vacuum.”

However, online commentators are already posting satirical comments about the Army general’s promise that seems to have been made on impulse.

“Whenever facing a difficult situation, the authorities play the dissolution card. Let’s disband this country then,” wrote one commentator.

Follow Jun Ji-hye on Twitter @TheKopJihye

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