April 11, 2011:
Last month, there was the one year anniversary of a North Korean mini-sub torpedoing a South Korean corvette, killing 46 South Korean sailors and sinking the ship. North Korea never admitted it's sub made the attack, but the sinking was celebrated inside North Korea as a great victory, and there was physical evidence (pieces of a North Korean torpedo) found in the wreckage. In South Korea, the last year has been one of growing self-examination and recrimination over the attack. Many of the accusations of the military not being ready for such an attack, or properly led after the incident, are not news to anyone who follows what goes on in the South Korean military. But the general public was shocked to be told how unprepared South Korea was for this sort of thing.
The most immediate accusation was about how inadequate intelligence was in not seeing the possibility of such an attack. But the reality is that such North Korean recklessness had become less common in the previous two decades, and the order to torpedo the South Korean ship was not carefully planned. It appears that it was mainly a publicity stunt to boost acceptance of Kim Jong Il's youngest (29 year old) son, who has been selected to replace him. Such decisions come from a very small circle of people in the ruling class. Very little good intel comes out of that tight group.
More accurate were the criticisms of the South Korean military commanders. Long accused of being lax and not paying attention to what North Korea was known to be capable of, much of this was proven by the uncoordinated and sometimes inept response to the torpedo attack.
The military was also accused, rightly it turned out, of not even conducting the post-attack investigation competently, and then expending a lot of effort to try and keep the media from discovering how inept the military leadership was.
American and South Korean critics (most of them military) have been complaining about these leadership problems for decades. But, as is the case in most military establishments, the peacetime generals and admirals tend to go to extraordinary lengths to take care of each other. The politicians and media are making a mighty effort to get the generals to apply wartime rules (where if you screw up, you are quickly tossed out). A lot of the generals and admirals know they might be eligible for the axe under such rules, and are not eager to go along.