In the wake of North Korea’s sinking of South Korean Corvette Cheonan, Government officials in South Korea have recommended that 25 high ranking military officers be dismissed. The move comes after a report released by Government Auditors examining both the sinking and the resulting investigation and salvage.
From The Korean Times:
By Jung Sung-ki
State auditors recommended Thursday that the Ministry of National Defense (MND) sack 25 ranking military personnel for mishandling the deadly sinking of the Navy ship Cheonan in March.
Those facing disciplinary measures include Gen. Lee Sang-eui, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS); Lt. Gen. Hwang Joong-seon, chief of staff of the JCS operations bureau; Lt. Gen. Hwang Won-dong, chief of staff of the JCS intelligence bureau; and Vice Adm. Park Jung-hwa, commander of the Naval Operations Command, the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) said.
Also included were Rear Adm. Kim Dong-shik, commander of the 2nd Navy Fleet; and Won Tae-jae, spokesman of the ministry.
The 25 facing disciplinary measures break down to two senior ministry officials, 13 generals, nine colonels and one lieutenant colonel.
At the ministry’s request, the BAI had looked into the military’s response to the North Korean torpedo attack that claimed the lives of 46 sailors since April 20.
Announcing the interim outcome of its probe into the ship sinking, the BAI said that officers at the JCS and the Navy were negligent in maritime defense against a possible North Korean submarine infiltration.
They also failed to report the incident to the upper chain of command, apparently to avoid criticism over loopholes in national defense, it said.
For example, the 2nd Fleet Command received a report on the incident from the Cheonan at 9:28 p.m. on March 26 but relayed the report at 9:45 p.m., the BAI said.
The captain of the Cheonan initially reported to the fleet command and the Naval Operations Command in Busan that he believed the ship had been torpedoed, but the operations command didn’t relay the report to the JCS, it said.
According to auditors, it remains unclear if the nearby Sokcho frigate was chasing a flock of birds after the incident. The JCS had argued the objects the Sokcho was chasing and firing at were a flock of birds, dismissing media suspicion that the military had unsuccessfully tracked a North Korean midget submarine.
The Sokcho initially reported that the ship detected a North Korean submarine, but the 2nd Fleet Command directed the Sokcho captain to report to the upper chain of command that his ship had mistakenly been tracking the birds, the auditor said.
Based on analysis of images taken by the Korea Naval Tactical Data System (KNTDS), radars and thermal observation devices, the BAI couldn’t confirm what the suspect objects were, they said.
“Through the audit, we’ve concluded that Navy and JCS officers delayed reporting the situation to the upper chain of command or fabricated data mainly because they wanted to avoid public criticism over security loopholes and poor crisis management,” said Park Si-jong, who led the audit.
It is interesting to note that Cheonan’s Captain had reported that he believed his vessel was torpedoed, and that the Skipper of South Korean Corvette Sokcho, operating near by, had claimed to have detected a North Korean sub, and was subsequently ordered to report it as a “flock of birds”. Falsifying reports should never be tolerated, and the CYA attitude shown by these South Korean officers is alarming. The South Korean Government if justified in firing the lot of them, and in my opinion, should also be bringing charges against some, if not all.
The good thing about this action, is that it shows South Korea is still serious about the affair, and is serving notice that it is willing to take such actions and steps as are required to see that it doesn’t happen again. North Korea would be well advised to not get too comfortable, or think that this act of war will be allowed to fade away quietly.
More here from VOA.