Revelations of special treatment received by Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae’s son during his mandatory military service and the Defense Ministry’s attempts to shield him from scrutiny are damaging troop morale and discipline. Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo told lawmakers on Wednesday, “It’s true that documents have not been preserved at the unit, but no regulations were violated so there are no problems” with the justice minister’s son taking nearly a month’s sick leave after minor knee surgery. When asked why other soldiers who suffered much more serious injuries were not granted extended leave, Jeong said, “Their commanders did not consider the matter carefully.” In other words, any discrimination is entirely somebody else’s fault and has nothing to do with the fact that they have no friends in high places. Jeong himself seemed confused what the party line is. First he told lawmakers that the young man should only have taken four days off, but then he backpedaled and said he “misspoke.” Perhaps he got confused trying to cobble together so many conflicting bits of information. When ruling-party lawmakers said it was perfectly okay for a soldier to request an extension of his sick leave by text message to his commander, the defense minister nodded in agreement, even though in fact a proper document has to be submitted. A career soldier who rose through the ranks by sheer hard work, Jeong is now about to cap his career by dragging the entire military through the mud because of party pressure.
The nominee for Jeong’s replacement, Suh Wook, also blamed the military and said, “There are several unsatisfactory areas” as well as “administrative problems.” When asked about the controversy surrounding the justice minister’s son, Suh said, “It is difficult for me to make an assessment, since that is a matter for the commanding