Off guard for three hours
The barbed wire fence on the front line has been crossed again. On the afternoon of January 1, an unidentified person – allegedly a civilian – crossed the heavily armed northeast border with North Korea. The movements were captured by our military surveillance cameras installed on guard posts in the southern part of the demilitarized zone (DMZ). But the soldiers of the 22nd Infantry Division missed the person. It turned out that the moment of the crossing was noticed late by soldiers monitoring the CCTV cameras installed there. The episode once again revealed the laxity of our soldiers on the front lines.
The period leading up to botched detection sounds louder alarms. The sensitive military equipment on the fence alarmed the troops, but they reportedly pulled out of the fence after finding no problem. Because they check the fences daily, they can immediately see any suspicious traces left behind. The fences were reinforced more than twice after a North Korean soldier defected without a break in the 22nd Division in 2012. While the soldiers dispatched to the site on Saturday did brush up on the repeated alarms simply as signs of movement of animals, that’s a bigger problem.
Our army has been caught off guard on several occasions. The tense border monitored by the division on the east coast was penetrated by a North Korean soldier in November 2020 and even by a North Korean swimmer across the East Sea last year. As a result of the nearly annual crossings, the commander and other high-ranking officers of the division were demoted. Yet such shameful incidents are repeated. We are stunned that the division’s soldiers discovered the last border crossing three hours later.
Such disgraceful incidents have occurred up to 11 times in the past two years alone. And the locations don’t matter. North Korean sailors crossed the East Sea and landed safely in the port of Samcheok without being caught by the navy and coast guard. North Korean soldiers also arrived at our naval bases in Jinhae and Jeju Island to defect and even came to the air defense unit of Capital Defense Command. Penetration has reached serious levels. Such penetrations cannot be found in any other administration of the past.
Such lax military preparation has its roots mainly in the incomprehensible defense position under the liberal Moon Jae-in administration. The government does not view North Korea as our enemy. Worse, the appointments of military leaders were determined by political decisions from above. As a result, the commanders avoided establishing strong military discipline in the barracks. But if the army forgets its duty to safeguard the country, the damage goes directly to the people.