The Korean Peninsula is a bridge between an ocean (the Pacific) and a continent (Asia). It is surrounded by semi-superpowers, China, Russia and Japan. The United States has military presence in the peninsula and Japan. Moreover, South Korea is now facing a nuclear-armed North Korea.
As a defector from North Korea, I have always dwarfed by South Korea’s economic miracle and liberty. At the same time, however, I was concerned over lack of popular awareness on national security.
I participated in a two-day National Security Field Trip hosted by South Korean Ministry of Defense.
On October 16, the group visited Korea Combat Training Center (KCTC) in Inje, Kangwon Province, and the First Fleet stationed in Donghae, Kangwon Province.
ROK Army’s KCTC is a training site in which a battalion could drill with a highly-trained opposition unit which would imitate tactics (and uniform) of North Korean People’s Army. The training resembles real battle.
Army PR officer told the visitors that only a handful of countries possess such combat training center. KCTC is equipped with IT, communication, optical science, computer science and other state-of-art new technologies.
Brig. Gen. Lee Jae-wan, commander of the KCTC, emphasized on necessity of larger, more sophisticated KCTC that can handle regiment-level drill. According to Brig. General Lee, “Current KCTC is a-battalion large, so it takes almost nine years to invite every battalion from ROK Army divisions. And if the size of KCTC increases to that of a regiment, every other regiment can exercise with the unit in two years.”
KCTC enables South Korean Army units to have a reality exercise without blood spilled. Exercise is expected to result in better achievement in actually battle.
Visitors participated in an attacking unit against fake North Korean forces.
On the second day of trip, we visited the ROK First Fleet and its destroyer ROKS Gwanggaeto the Great. ROKS Gwanggaeto the Great is the first Korean-type destroyer with a displacement of 3900t and a maximum speed 30kn/hr. She can be operated with 286 sailors.
The warship is armed with newest set of anti-aircraft, anti-ship missiles and one of the world’s largest, 127mm gun. Two anti-submarine Lynx helicopters were on board.
However, more surprising was sailors’ living quarters inside the ship. The environment was so comfortable with bedroom, shower tools, women-only compartment, and anti-chemical warfare system. They were well contrasted with North Korean People’s Army’s dismal living environment that I experienced.
I only regretted that only two such destroyers were allotted to the First Fleet. The East Sea is known for harsh weather and raging waves. Larger warships would be necessary for the fleet to operate against bad weather.
The United States has become a world superpower with such a short period of time thanks to dauntless naval strategy in late 19th century and early 20th. Alfred Mahan, legendary naval strategist, argued for significance sea power. The advice was accepted by William McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt.
A South Korean naval officer advised the visitors to “look at the continent from the sea, rather than looking at the sea from the continent.”
|▲ The helicopters shed of Destroyers KDX-I Gwanggaeto the Great belonging to the First Fleet|