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A female soldier cools a male comrade with water after atomic, biological and chemical weapons training at the Non-Commissioned Officer Academy in Iksan, North Jeolla Province on Sept. 19. Source: Chosun Ilbo

The ROK Ministry of Defense is thinking about the possibility of allowing females to enlist in the Reserve Officer Training Corps.  There are not many details but I would venture to guess that this is related to the military’s goal of “transforming” within the next decade or so and also perhaps tacitly strengthening its female workforce.  Transformation, in a nutshell, is creating a smaller, more lethal and agile fighting force that relies less on manpower and more on precise coordination between smaller units and long-range support units such as air strikes and artillery.  The ROK is taking a cue from the Rumsfeldian idea of doing more with less.  Whether or not this is a good idea, well, I’m currently on the fence.

A while back I wrote about how the military’s plan to scale back the mandatory service time (for males) was likely a tactic in reducing its overall numbers at any given time and in order to compensate for these losses it would do well to ramp up its officer training recruitment to compensate for the reduction in experienced soldiers.  With less soldiers in the future, the ROK is going to need as many experienced ones as it can get.

This new MOD development seems to be in line with this notion of ratcheting up the officer corps and a good one at that.  Currently, women’s roles in the armed forces are quite progressive when put up against its gender empowerment index for the rest of society (63rd in the world).  Women fulfill duties in every branch of the military and serve as pilots, engineers, platoon commanders and can even be found within the Special Warfare Command.  They can also be seen filling roles in front line combat units, something even the U.S or UK won’t permit (somewhat a technicality at this point as female soldiers in both armies are increasingly seeing combat due to the amorphous nature of the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters of war).

As of now, women are allowed to enlist in all of the military academies in Korea, and opening the door to the ROTC is just another step in the right direction.  In case you are wondering, the difference between an ROTC program and a military academy is that individuals who attend ROTC generally do so at a regular university and take some of their classes alongside their civilian counterparts pertaining to their major(s).  Academy cadets however, whom are also ROTC, attend military colleges like West Point, The Citadel, or VMI, etc.  Academies are a bit more focused and disciplined and carry a lot of institutional baggage in the form of century old traditions and collective memory manifesting itself at times as brutal hazing practices.  See the film “The Lords of Discipline” for more on the latter.  These are general conclusions largely based on what I know of American military academies and ROTC, so take that info with a grain of salt.

Anyway, there are positive gains to be had for increasing the number of female officer cadets.  More women in the ROTC means more women in the military, and that means equipping more women with identical skill sets that nearly all men in Korea walk away with after serving regardless of officer training or not.  And that can translate into real-world job skills such as information systems management, electrical engineering, cyber security, logistics, and the list goes on.  This in turn could alleviate some of the negative effects of the economic squeeze that disproportionately affected women due to their positions in temporary jobs that were more susceptible to lay offs during cut backs.  We’ll see how it pans out.  For a more in-depth look at women in the military take a look at this older article, also from the Chosun Ilbo and this abstract to an article that I wasn’t willing to pay 25 bucks to read.

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Scene It Before by CSI Will.

Scene it Before by CSI Will
Last Thursday in a small village south of Beirut, Lebanon, while re-enacting a multiple murder he had recently confessed to, a murder suspect was forcibly taken from police and killed by a mob of angry onlookers.  He was initially recovered by police and taken to a hospital but was then again captured by the villagers and stabbed to death.  His body was then driven around the village atop a car then hung on a meat hook in the center of the village.

This police procedure is actually quite a bit more common around the world than I had realized.  It seems that in many countries, actors are contracted by the police departments to do the re-enactments through private organizations such as Crimestoppers. (click the link to see where they operate)

The first time I saw this peculiar custom was on the news here in Korea.  I was pretty stunned as it was clear that the people who had come to watch were not pleased while they watched him repeat his crimes on a white dummy.  As I watched I was reminded of footage I once saw of Jeffery Damner’s trial where a family member of one of the victims had to be restrained after she read her victim impact statement in the courtroom.  Can you imagine if he was forced to re-enact those heinous crimes while the victims’ families watched?

I’ve heard and deduced myself, that the re-enactments’ main purpose is cathartic, but can also have some investigative benefits as well.  But for crying out loud, common sense should have told someone a long time ago that by using the actual suspect it was only a matter of time before something like the mob killing near Beirut took place.  Police departments around the world should seriously analyze the costs and benefits of following this routine with the actual suspect in such a potentially volatile, high emotion environment.  It’s just common sense.

Prior to writing my own entry about the Cheonan, I commented on Gellar’s.  She seems to have deleted it so I put up another one.  Here it is in case you care:

Ha!  Seems my comment was deleted!  Guess I’ll just have to post it again.  Here it is:

The North’s belligerence has NOTHING to do with the Obama administration.  North Korea puts its military spending ahead of all else, including feeding its own people.  The regime perpetuates a lie amongst its people that it is defending the country against US and Japanese capitalist imperialism which already took over the South. stir things up and engage in skirmishes or fire its weaponry at nothing here and there.

The most likely reason incidents such as these have been on the rise lately are due to a couple of factors, none of which has anything to do with a sitting US president:

1. The Dear Leader’s control of the population is waning.  Take a look at the recent currency debacle.  It was carried out to wipe out the people’s savings and reign in an emerging upper-middle class that gained wealth through black market ventures not sanctioned by the government.  After the reform things got even worse with the general population responding by mounting street protests and even clashed directly with the government.  Nearly unheard of North Korea.

2. The conservative Lee administration has taken a much harder stance on the North than the string of presidents that preceded him.  During the recent Noh and Kim administrations, relations between the two Koreas were slightly better as the South provided more aid and was willing to look the other way while the North shamelessly starved its people and built up its vast military and nuclear arsenal(Sunshine Policy).

There are many other reasons, and the mentioned ones could be much more in depth.  But this is a blog comment.  Gellar should at least try and look at the situation objectively instead of drawing an asinine conclusion that uses the logic and reasoning becoming of a six-year old.

As for jcgirl1979, I can’t believe that someone who has spent so much time LIVING IN THE COUNTRY holds such an elementary view of the domestic politics and social fabric of the nation she resides in.  And as far as your comment that a “skirmish” would be beneficial for South Korea’s social problems, I’m nearly at a loss for words, but not quite.

Are you really in favor using armed conflict as a means to address problems such as alcoholism and suicide???  Of all the possible solutions, you chose WAR??  What in the flying * are you thinking?  That is embarrassingly stupid.  Plus, do you realize that by missing the old days of the Bush years you are basically saying that the liberal South Korean governments are to thank for “amazing” time enjoyed under GW?  How can you not even consider how SK politics affect the North?

Oh, and by the way, by advocating war as a means to heal public ills, you are essentially echoing Big Brother’s strategy of perpetual war as a means to social control which is decidedly totalitarian and a form of government that the right(and I’d guess you too) is so terrified Obama is bent on turning the US into.  Think before you speak.

I live in SK as well, jcgirl1979 and if I ever meet you I will make it a point to take you down a peg or two, you twit.

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Liar – Angelica Nicole)

The Hankyoreh is running a nice piece on the piss poor journalism that is all too common here in Korea. The article criticizes the major tv news networks for broadcasting speculation as actual news reports, particularly when it comes to North Korea. SBS ran a news ticker stating, “A South Korean PCC sank after being attacked by North Korea,” while the other two major news stations MBC and KBS followed suit with comments from their nightly news anchors making similarly baseless claims.

This is just a quick post and I plan to follow it up either tonight or tomorrow with commentary as to what might be some possible explanations as to why this type of journalism is so prevalent here in Korea. Stay tuned. I need to pick my girlfriend’s brain for a while before I do though. But until then, think about this for a second – is there a Korean Glenn Beck?

Correction to previous article: I mentioned that YTN was one of those making the claims, I was wrong, Meahn.


korea navy DDH-975 UDT SEAL by S.KOREA KDN.

Last Friday, at about 9:30pm Korea time, a 1,200 ton naval patrol corvette sunk off the west coast of the peninsula after an explosion of unknown causes occurred in the rear of the ship.  After splitting into two pieces it sunk around 3 hours later.  58 of its 104 crew members were rescued alive.

The entire event has been surrounded with speculation since the initial reports started coming in.  The first major news networks to break the news, SBS and YTN, actually reported it as a North Korean attack.  Based on what I heard and experienced myself, this caused mild panic among those who first heard the news but quickly dissipated after more reports came in.

Those claims have since been disputed as it is still unclear as to what exactly caused the explosion.  Possible explanations so far have been unseen rocks, ordnance malfunctions, underwater mines from China, the North or even the South, and of course, a Northern torpedo.  Many of the official statements issued thus far have been that a belligerent Northern attack is unlikely.  Reasons being the location is too far from the disputed line and the depth would not provide easy maneuverability for a warship.  This latter one sounds weird to me though.  The South’s ship wasn’t exactly a fishing boat.  At 1,200 tons, it puts it at a mid-range warship just below that of a destroyer or cruiser.  I could see the low depth possibly ruling out a submarine but it’s clear that there was enough depth for a deep-water vessel.  Also, many people are confused as to how, if the explosion took place at the rear, the ship broke in half.  It certainly does seem odd, but I’d think that if the hole was big enough it might have caused the ship to turn nearly vertical as it was sinking.  The front of the ship then would have been raised up and it would have snapped in two under its own weight, similar to what happened to the Titanic.  A problem still exists though.  The Korean ship was in water that was probably no more than 90 feet deep.  The ship itself is almost 300 feet in length which might make it hard to lift the ship high enough to produce the amount of stress needed to break it in half.  This is merely my own speculation as I have not read or heard anything to that tune so far.

Regardless, I’m not exactly sure what this will do in terms of politics.  Personally, I think there will be more fallout if it turns out to be an accident. Domestically, people are not happy right now with what the military is doing to keep its soldiers safe.  Coming right off the heals of two previous mishaps from earlier this month, this will not sit well with the public.  One can easily sympathize.  If a government is going to require its male citizenry to serve in its armed forces, the least the state can do is make sure the equipment, and safety regulations are top notch.

If it turns out to be the North there’s still not much the ROK could really do.  An invasion?  Retaliatory strikes?  No, and No.  It will probably be blamed on lower-level commanders in the North to lighten the blame on the regime and absolve them of any responsibility.  Remember what happened to the guy they blamed for the currency debacle?  Heads are gonna roll!

Not much else is likely to happen.  Depending on the results, the South will either beef up its safety regulations/training, or its maritime detection capabilities.  War scenarios are unlikely due to the massive losses each side would incur.  A measured counterstrike may have been a possibility had it been determined it was the North straight away, but the amount of time that has passed since then has probably staved off any knee-jerk responses.

The media is still trying though!  It does its best to stir up the hornet’s nest through shoddy reporting and genuine disinformation.  The latest Korean Herald report entitled, “Survivor suggests outside attack on ship” quotes a random lieutenant who was on board as saying, “There is no possibility whatsoever that the ship sank due to an internal explosion or a collision with a reef.  I can guarantee that”.  Then they’ve got the same guy saying, “The military is currently conducting an investigation and I am not in a position to comment on that,” referring to the possibility of an attack.  No comments, eh?  Does he have a 2 second memory?  A guarantee that it was NOT from within or from the reef sounds like a pretty strong comment if you ask me.  My goodness.  It’s almost not worth commenting on shit sometimes.  How does that kind of junk make into a major news story?  I swear the media here just gets its kicks out of seeing how far they can take a story before someone calls b.s.

As a reminder that there’s just as many nutballs back home, check out Pamela Geller’s take on the issue.  Monumentally obtuse.  I’ll let her blog entry speak for itself:

This is an act of war, no doubt. With Obama at the helm, expect hell to break loose. It reeks of the NORKS. North Korea never would have pulled something like this under Bush. Never. They know Obama will do nothing and South Korea is on her own. Hussein ain’t Truman.

Here’s a comment from one of the commentors:

I am in South Korea right now and this does not look good at all. I have lived in this country for 5 years non-stop, and I can definitely tell you that things have gotten worse with regards to North Korea since Obama was elected. We only had one nuclear bomb tested (which then let the world know they had nuclear weapons) back in October of 2006. No missile testing, no real threats. Everything was so amazing when Bush was in office. Then, when it looked like Obama was going to win, the North started to get provocative. There have been dozens of missile tests and launches in the past 16 months. The firing of cannons between theSouth Korean navy and the North Korean one, back in November, happened 30 minutes out to sea from Daecheon Beach, which is part of Boryeong City, 90 minutes from the city I was in called Nonsan. I was only 2 hours away from the exchange of cannon fire. I remember having to tell my students at the all-boys middle school (American grades 8-10) what had happened and their duty to help the military families in the area. Nonsan is also near the KATC (Korean Army Traning Center) of Yeonmu Dae (a 10 minute drive by taxi). I am acquainted with a former captain and his family from there, who are now in Los Angeles as new American citizens. I just moved a month ago to Jinju, in Gyeongsangnam Province, about 2 hours from the port city of Busan.

[snip]

Love you all so much, and thanks, Pamela, for shining a light in a dark world!

It’s surprising to see someone who’s lived here for so long to come to such an effed up conclusion.

Pam and her devoted follower’s epic fail at logic and reasoning surmises that the North’s behavior is dictated solely by whoever controls Washington.  Although, I must concede that the US play a large role in inter-Korean politics,  she doesn’t even consider South Korea and the fact that the current Lee administration has taken one of the hardest stances a Southern president has maintained since the North has become increasingly militaristic in recent decades.  They never take into account that the North’s recent actions are much more likely to be a response to the hard-line Lee administration, whose policies are much less benevolent than his predecessors’.

The real gem is the last section of the jcgirl1979’s post:

Yet in the face of this, I have no fear. It may take a skirmish in this country to get it together, as there are massive social problems in this country (4th highest rate of alcoholism in the world, an abortion rate 6-7 times that of the USA, divorce rate hovering around 70%, the highest suicide rate in the world, and the list goes on). I will keep you all posted as to anything going on here.

Of course!  Why didn’t they think about that when they were coming up with solutions to Korea’s social ills: WAR!  Duh!  It sounds like she’s taken a page out of Big Brother’s play book that keeps the proles in line through never-ending war.  It’s really quite silly to see someone so clearly aligned with a more conservative political outlook inadvertently give praise to former liberal Korean administrations and a strikingly totalitarian method of social control.  What. A. Fucking. Moron.

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The Joong Ang’s photo section features a brief report that the Korean Agency for Defense Development has produced some new weapons that allow soldiers to fire while remaining behind cover.  Neat, huh?  The Korea Herald gives a more detailed account.  Weapons such as these are actually nothing new. Israel developed a similar gun almost 7 years ago for use in urban fighting environments.  The gun looks like an assault rifle with a camera on it, but in reality it is actually a 9mm pistol that is fitted with a handle and lever that fires it from a safe spot.

The gun was designed to be used in close-quarters fighting where a smaller caliber weapon like a pistol would not be totally useless.  The problem with this weapon (both Israeli and Korean) is that the visible portion of the gun that sticks around the corner is so large that the presence of the person operating it would be all too obvious and the foe simply would need to shoot through the wall, so long as its not concrete.  Also, a setting such as a building that is filled with corners and unopened doors requires that those infiltrating it be on their toes at all times.  Staring at a tiny screen on your gun doesn’t exactly give you the best opportunity to aware of your surroundings.

The article states that the Korean version has features such as a laser signator that the Israeli one does not but according to the BBC article it is an option on the latter.  As for the active-pixel sensor, well, that just means its using the same type of sensor that cell phone cameras and some DSLR’s use to take pictures.  Revolutionary, really.  They really should give more details, as the previously designed version, despite the limitations I mentioned, seems like it covered most of the bases it could’ve.  Why not just purchase the Israeli ones?  Perhaps the Korean ones are cheaper.

I get disappointed when I see things like this.  Again, the Korean military is wasting money on developing a technology that was already invented.  Further more, it’s questionable as to whether or not they’re even improving on the existing ideas.   The same was true with their ‘smart’ uniforms which I blogged about earlier.  Although they didn’t exactly break the bank on these guns (around 350 million won), it still represents irresponsible spending.

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Back in 2007, the The Noh Mu-hyun administration agreed with Donald Rumsfeld’s Department of Defense that the Korean military should be given full operational control by 2012.  Currently, the US has full control over both US and ROK forces in the event of war.  The LA Times has an article by Michael O’Hanlan from the Brookings Institute stating his opinion that this is a bad idea.

I would agree with O’Hanlan for the time being.  This plan was hatched under very different diplomatic relations between the US and Korea.  The Noh administration was big on stirring up nationalism often directed against the US and Japan for political gain and control over their own military was an easy win at the time.  It was also greatly influenced by Rumsfeld’s wet dream of having a new smaller, more agile high-tech military.

Like the article says, the situation has changed quite drastically since then.  Despite some communication problems here and thereLee’s current administration is on much better footing with the US and the new army idea of Donald’s turned into a cluster fuck after they realized they needed to secure an entire country with that light force.  Oops.  As I commented once before, Korea is looking to do something similar to its forces by 2020 and may run into similar problems.

Once again, this idea of a smaller fighting force could very well bite the US in the butt.  The Obama administration needs to look this over thoroughly and realize that that paradigm, when applied appropriately like in Afghanistan, does have its benefits.  But the situation in Korea would be much more akin to Iraq in so that after hostilities ended, disarmament would require huge amounts of available troops.  Also, I’d be inclined to say that based on the sheer amount of potentially actionable troops the North has, the number of soldiers simply needed to repel an invasion 9 million troops would be capable of would be enormous.

The switch must happen eventually, but as the Chosun quotes Bruce Bechtol of the US Marine Corps Command and Staff Collee, ROK force capabilities are still lacking in key areas like defending themselves against chemical, biological and nuclear threats.

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