The opposition Democratic Party of Korea went after the Yoon Suk Yeol administration’s national security strategy on Thursday in a bid to keep the ruling People Power Party on the defense.
Democratic Party floor leader Rep. Park Hong-keun convened an emergency meeting, in which he said that the “incompetence of the administration was threatening the security of the country.”
“North Korean drones intruded into our airspace and revealed critical security gaps, and yet the ruling party is keen on defending the administration, hampering a proper examination of these risks at the national defense committee,” he said.
The morning session of the National Assembly’s committee of national defense, the first one to be held in the new year, had to be paused as discussions over North Korean drones entering Seoul air space last month turned into a clash between parties.
The session was attended by Minister of National Defense Lee Jong-sup and Joint Chiefs of Staff chief Kim Seung-kyum.
Democratic Party Rep. Sul Hoon said the president “might push the country into war” with his “tit-for-tat” strategy, referring specifically to Yoon’s remarks on sending South Korean drones across the border in response to North Korea’s airspace incursion.
“The president is forgetting his duty is to maintain peace,” he said.
People Power Party Rep. Tae Yong-ho said now is “not time for reproach.”
Tae said that over the first six months of the Yoon administration, the South Korean military “triumphed over” its North Korean counterpart.
“In June last year, for the first time in 70 years since Korea was divided, North Korea completely overhauled its military leadership including Park Jong-chon, who was the most powerful military official after Kim Jong-un,” he added. “I think this is because the Yoon administration was doing something right.”
Democratic Party Rep. Kim Byung-joo said the ministry and the ruling party slandered him as “spy for North Korea” for being the first one to argue that one of the North Korean drones may have flown over a no-fly zone.
“I have been disgraced by these accusations. I can’t sleep at night,” said the army general-turned-lawmaker, demanding an apology.
“Anyone who knows how to read a map would have been able to speculate a possible infiltration into the no-fly zone. When I suggested this possibility, the military immediately pushed back. It turns out there had been an infiltration,” Kim added.
“No one called you a spy,” People Power Party Rep. Shin Won-sik retorted, to which Kim replied: “What I said was that the Defense Ministry said I was aiding the enemy with my suggestion. Minister, you shouldn’t be lying.”
Refuting the Democratic Party lawmaker’s suggestion, Defense Ministry spokesperson Jeon Ha-kyu told a Dec. 29 briefing, “Presenting falsehoods as if they are facts is an act that benefits our enemy.”
The Democratic Party lawmaker also accused the presidential office of censoring journalists by investigating the press coverage of the North Korean drone’s incursion into the no-fly zone. An investigation by the National Intelligence Service and the Defense Security Support Command is underway for a possible leak of information to the press.
“I want to know who ordered this investigation. For the NIS to get involved, it’s highly likely the president was,” Kim claimed.
Shin said that Democratic Party lawmakers were staging a “political show” on matters of defense and security.
“Until the first half of the 21st National Assembly, partisan wrangling had no place at the national defense committee. The national defense committee was first and foremost concerned with helping our military do its job well,” said the ruling party lawmaker.
“After the Yoon administration came into office in the last half of the Assembly term, everything is being turned into an opportunity to blame the president. There had been instances of security lapses during the Moon administration as well, including border crossings, but the national defense committee didn’t engage in this kind of blame game then,” he added.
He went on, “When it comes to national security there can be no left or right.”