Defense ministry under fire for non-investigation
By Chung Min-uck, Lee Tae-hoon
The Ministry of National Defense is under fire for delaying an investigation into politicians who carelessly disposed of documents containing sensitive military information.
Prior to The Korea Time’s publication of the article, “Dumping classified documents” on Monday, the ministry maintained that it would be unavoidable to launch a probe into alleged reckless disposal of confidential documents by politicians.
Defense officials, however, have admitted that the ministry is toothless in probing the possible breach of the Military Secrets Protection Act, which states that those guilty of leaking classified information by negligence could face up to two years imprisonment.
Investigative authorities under the ministry are also passing the buck to one another.
The paper broke the news that Rep. Chung Ui-hwa, a five-term lawmaker of the ruling Saenuri Party, and Kim Jang-soo, a former defense minister and Saenuri Party lawmaker, left sensitive military documents unattended for days in the corridors of their former parliamentary offices.
“The case should be handled either by the Policy Agency or military prosecutors,” a senior military police official said.
An investigator at the Military Prosecutors’ Office refuted this, saying “The case should be turned over to the Defense Security Command (DSC), which handles security and intelligence related matters, as it is more of a civil case.”
An official of the DSC contested this, claiming his agency does not have enough investigative powers to open a case against ruling party lawmakers.
A senior military official said it will be unlikely for the ministry to proactively deal with the matter on fears of a possible backlash from legislators, from whom it needs support for budget increases and defense-related bills.
“Questioning lawmakers is hard as politics plays into it,” the official said.