Defense minister: No excuse possible for security breaches at military bases

SEOUL, Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo strongly reprimanded top commanders on Tuesday over a series of embarrassing civilian intrusions into military bases, saying that there is no excuse for such lapses.

Jeong also called for "extraordinary" measures to prevent any recurrence during an emergency meeting convened with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Park Han-ki and other top generals to discuss the security breaches at Army and Navy bases in recent months.

In the latest such incident, an intoxicated man in his 50s dug under the fence surrounding an air defense outpost in Siheung, south of Seoul, on Monday and went inside to collect wild greens, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).

The case came less than two weeks after the military failed to detect two civic activists intruding into a naval compound on the southern island of Jeju and wandering around for about two hours. They have long opposed the construction of such military facilities on the island, the JCS said.

Military officials also belatedly disclosed another case of security breach that happened on Jan. 3 in which a mentally ill man in his 70s got into the Jinhae Naval Command in the southeastern city of Changwon without being stopped.

"All commanders must recognize the seriousness of the situation, and we must thoroughly repent first," Jeong said, stressing that there are no excuses for the breaches, as the military pledged a watertight posture last year following the undetected arrival of a wooden boat carrying four North Koreans at a South Korean eastern port.

The wooden boat case sparked intense public criticism for lax discipline in the military and prompted opposition parties to demand the minister's resignation.

After Tuesday's meeting, Jeong also issued a letter to all service personnel and called for the examination of all security equipment and related facilities at each base, the possible modification of their initial response system and the management of surveillance resources, and further education and training for related operations and tighter discipline, according to the ministry.

"We feel sorry that such incidents that took place at a time when the military have been striving to fight the new coronavirus to support and give hope to the people," ministry spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo told a regular briefing.

About 20 military officers have conducted investigations into the Siheung case, and five Navy inspectors were sent to the Jinhae base on Monday for an additional probe, according to the JCS

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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