Uncovering the Truth about the Cheonan

11 June 2010

Mit freundlicher Erlaubnis: The Hankyoreh

http://img.hani.co.kr/section-image/05/news2/top_ci.gif The Hankyoreh, 2010-06-11



Yesterday, the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) announced the findings of its inspection of the response to the Cheonan sinking. While BAI did expose issues with the military's response, the audit only raises the question of whether it is avoiding key issues and attempting to bring the incident to a neat close. The findings were a disappointment that prompt one to question the BAI's overall genuineness and responsibility.

According to the announcement, not one of the core command organizations - the Navy Second Fleet Command, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or the Defense Ministry -fulfilled its proper function according to rules and regulations at the time of the incident. All of them made mistakes, such as being slow in reporting and failing to communicate the entire extent of the situation.

Moreover, the soldiers in these command positions routinely lied and willfully altered the time and cause of the incident. If such problems exist in the military command, the people cannot expect the military as a whole to demonstrate proper operational capabilities. The command's lying and story changing are even more worthy of censure. Given that the government carried out its investigation into the cause of the sinking with the military at the helm, leaving this very command in place, it stands to reason that skepticism over the findings would continue unabated.

Assuming the government's investigation into the cause was accurate in its findings, the key question is what the military was doing up until a North Korean submersible infiltrated South Korean waters with the military might of South Korea and the U.S. spread far and wide engaged in joint training exercises. In other words, taking precedence over the follow-up measures after inspection, it was a determination of inspection to investigate why the overall failure in alertness occurred and where responsibility lay.

However, BAI concluded the problem was "failing to exercise appropriate measures, including strengthened antisubmarine capabilities, with the Cheonan and its inadequate submersible response capabilities positioned near Baengnyeong Island." This is truly incomprehensible. The Cheonan had equipment such as sound detectors on board and specialized in antisubmarine operations. BAI simply accepted the military's self-exculpatory claim that the Cheonan's response capabilities were inadequate. This is why it appears to many that BAI was trying to express a neat resolution the incident rather than determine the truth. As a result, BAI excluded the captain of the Cheonan from its list of people to receive disciplinary action. This goes against the general principle of holding the entire upper command line to account, including the head of the unit in question, when there has been a failure in alertness.

In light of this, one cannot help drawing the conclusion that political considerations played a part in the Cheonan inspection. There have even been allegations that Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Lee Sang-eui was unable to fulfill his role as military commander properly because he was intoxicated at the time of the accident. This still remains a question in spite of the BAI's announcement.

In the immediate wake of the incident, President Lee Myung-bak personally handled the rescue operation and national security response posture, presiding over four meetings of national security-related ministers. But there was a severe problem of inefficiency, as rescue equipment and workers were not dispatched promptly. Even though inadequacies were revealed in the response of the president, the commander-in-chief of the military, and in the national crisis management system linking the Cheong Wa Dae (the presidential office in South Korea or Blue House) with the relevant organizations, the BAI inspection steered clear of making any mention of this.

Far from determining the truth about the incident and the distribution of responsibility, this inspection has actually left us with more questions and unresolved issues.

In essence, every problem that was dreaded since the time the BAI embarked on this inspection has come to the fore. In light of such an inept response, one cannot expect to glean any lesson that could stop similar incidents from happening in the future either. We cannot simply accept these findings and move on. A National Assembly special committee, or a body of that nature, should carry out a thorough examination of the both the BAI's inspection findings and the findings of the joint civilian-military team's investigation into the cause of the sinking.

ⓒ 한겨레 (www.hani.co.kr). 무단전재 및 재배포금지


Mit freundlicher Erlaubnis von The Hankyoreh.


http://img.hani.co.kr/section-image/05/news2/top_ci.gif  The Hankyoreh, 2010-06-11

Wide-ranging incompetence and cover-ups took place night of Cheonan sinking, audit reveals

A number of observers believe that the announcement of audit results only presented an abbreviated version of the findings

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Lee Sang-eui answers to the questions from lawmakers at the National Assembly, April 30.

It has come to light that Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Lee Sang-eui was heavily intoxicated on the night of March 26 when the sinking of the Cheonan took place. This represented an effective surrender of his command responsibilities. It was also revealed that military authorities willfully revised the time of the incident in order to avoid criticisms about an improper early response and edited only a portion of its thermal optical device (TOD) videos for disclosure to the media in order to justify the erroneous announcement of the time.

The Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) released an interim announcement Thursday on the findings of its inspection of the response to the sinking of the Cheonan.

"A number of problem areas were found in the response of the Defense Ministry and the ministry in terms of battle prevention and readiness posture, situating reporting and transmission, crisis response measures, and management of military secrecy," said BAI. "We have also directed the Defense Ministry to take appropriate measures such as disciplinary action on 25 individuals in that ministry and the main military command, including Lee Sang-eui."

BAI held a press conference Thursday to announce the audit results.

"Both command responsibility and personal responsibility are factors in the disciplinary measures Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Lee Sang-eui is currently facing," said Park Si-jong, head of the BAI's Government Administration and National Security Audit Bureau.

Park refused to disclose the extent of Lee's personal responsibility, saying it would be "inappropriate" to do so, leading observers to contend that the announcement only presented an abbreviated version of the findings. BAI also did not disclose the names or positions of the remaining 24 individuals for whom disciplinary action was requested. Sources indicate that they include Naval Operations Commander Park Jung-hwa, Joint Operation Center Command Hwang Jung-seon, Defense Intelligence Agency director Hwang Won-dong, Second Fleet Commander Kim Dong-sik, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Operations Staff Department head Kim Hak-ju.

With regard to Lee Sang-eui's personal responsibility, a number of military sources reported that following a military leaders' forum at the Gyeryongdae compound the day of the Cheonan's sinking, he traveled to Seoul by KTX in a heavily inebriated state following a group dinner.

The sources said that he reportedly arrived at the Defense Ministry command control room around 10:42 p.m. that evening and, after spending about ten minutes attending a situation assessment meeting supervised by the ministry, effectively abandoned his duties and fell asleep.

It has also been reported that President Lee Myung-bak became furious after receiving a report on the BAI's findings, including Lee Sang-eui's intoxication, and ordered that personnel measures be taken.

The account from the Defense Ministry to date has been that after Defense Minister Kim Tae-young left the ministry to attend a meeting of national security-related ministers at the Cheong Wa Dae (the presidential office in South Korea or Blue House), Lee Sang-eui took command, presiding over a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 11:10 p.m. until 1:45 a.m. that night.

Additionally, the BAI inspection showed that the Joint Chiefs of Staff received notification from Naval Operations Command (NOC) that the time of the incident was 9:15 p.m., but revised the time to 9:45 p.m. when reporting it to Kim. The Joint Chiefs of Staff also received a report from the NOC about the possibility of the incident having resulting from an external shock, based on factors such the sound of an explosion, but omitted this from its report to their superiors.

"In altering the time of the incident, the Joint Chiefs of Staff were trying to avoid criticisms of an inadequate immediate response and lax alertness," said Park Si-jong.

It was also found that the Defense Ministry and Joint Chiefs of Staff were aware that TOD video footage was recorded from 9:25:38 p.m. on the day of the sinking, but disclosed only an edited version with footage from after 9:35:08 p.m. "The military changed the time of the incident from 9:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. that night, but it concealed the extra footage because it would be difficult to stick with the previously announced time if it got out into the media," said BAI.

In a document stating its position on BAI's findings, the Defense Ministry said, "Based on these inspection findings, we will reflect thoroughly on our conventional practices to date and boldly improve problematic areas in order to improve the operational capacity of our military's crisis management system."

기사등록 : 2010-06-11 오후 12:12:02

ⓒ 한겨레 (www.hani.co.kr). 무단전재 및 재배포금지


Mit freundlicher Erlaubnis von The Hankyoreh.


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