Amidst loud calls for his resignation after the mishandling of a second serious hostile North Korean act in less than a year, South Korean Minister of National Defense Kim Tae Young resigned on the 26th.
“President Lee accepted the resignation of Minister of National Defense Kim this afternoon. Kim offered his official resignation on May 1st after the Cheonan emergency, but it was postponed in order for us to deal with follow-up measures and then South Korea-U.S. defense ministerial talks,” Yim Tae Hee, the chief of the President’s office, told the media in a press conference at the Blue House.
Kim had previously tendered his resignation in May after coming under heavy fire for seeming indecisive and weak over the sinking of the Cheonan in the West Sea on March 26th, but President Lee chose to keep him at the Ministry of National Defense at that time.
The President chose to accept Kim’s resignation at this time, Yim went on, because of a spate of consecutive “military accidents” and in order to improve the atmosphere in the military as a whole.
The name of the new defense minister is due to be made public today, Yim also revealed. Until then, Kim will continue to fulfill his former duties in order to “avoid there being a vacuum until his replacement can take over.”
Among the most prominent criticisms leveled against the former Minister of National Defense are that the military failed to adhere to its own rules of engagement in dealing with the attack on Yeonpyeong Island. The regulations state that retaliation should come at twice or three times the magnitude of the original attack, but the South Korean artillery reply is said to have actually been weaker than the original attack in terms of the sheer volume of shots fired, while the fighter jets scrambled to the scene also failed to engage the target.
However, South Korea’s Marines have rejected the claims that they reacted weakly to the North Korean artillery attack, saying that rules of engagement were followed.
Showing the scale of the damage done to the military base on Yeonpyeong Island to reporters yesterday, Captain Kim Jeong Soo asserted, "There has been some talk that the counterattack was late, but that is not true.
"All soldiers stood their ground under the rain of artillery fire, pinpointed their target and promptly responded following an order," Kim also claimed.