[Editorial] Dubious hospitalization
Lee’s son hospitalized without order while in military  
Published : Feb 9, 2022 - 05:30
Updated : Feb 9, 2022 - 09:43
The elder son of Lee Jae-myung, the presidential candidate of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, is suspected of having received a special favor by being hospitalized without an order when he served in the military.

Assigned to the Air Force Training Wing after enlisting in August 2013, he was hospitalized in Armed Forces Capital Hospital for 52 days from July 29, 2014 without a related military order. The hospital is reputed to have the military’s best health care facilities.

The Training Wing is said to have requested on Sept. 4 of that year that its upper unit, the Air Force Education & Training Command, issue a hospital admission order for him.

On the request document was reportedly written “effective from July 29, 2014.” He was already hospitalized for about a month when the request was made. A retroactive personnel order must be a rarity.

A soldier must get an order from his unit commander to be admitted to a military hospital. But Lee’s elder son was hospitalized first without any grounds, followed by a belated request for an order.

What cannot happen even in a private company happened in the military.

Furthermore, the command is said to have not replied to the request from the Training Wing.

In a nutshell, no order existed for the hospitalization of Lee’s elder son.

The movement of troops without orders is impossible. Moreover, the training wing in Jinju, South Gyeongsang Province, is about 300 kilometers away from the Armed Forces Capital Hospital in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province. The military operates hospitals by region. The Armed Forces Capital Hospital is the military hospital nearest Lee’s private residence.

Lee’s elder son was admitted to the hospital about a month after his father began his term of office on July 1, 2014, reelected mayor of Seongnam.

Lee’s campaign office, while admitting to the elder son’s long-term hospitalization, said it would disclose the related military order. But the campaign later said that the order was not issued by the mistake of a person in charge of personnel affairs at that time. The Air Force chimed in, saying it was a “fault by the person in charge” not to answer the request for an order.

The suggestion that the lack of an order was due to a mistake is unconvincing. In a normal military organization, it is unimaginable for a soldier to be hospitalized in a top-level military hospital without an order. A soldier cannot even get a meal without one, never mind medical treatment.

Military units are required to make personnel status reports every day. One sure way to see what went wrong with the hospitalization of Lee’s firstborn son is to check the daily personnel status reports made by the two units -- the Air Force Education & Training Command and Armed Forces Capital Hospital -- for the period in question.

If he had been counted as on duty in the command’s daily reports but absent from the hospital’s reports while he was hospitalized, the reports of both units should be viewed as false. It points to something underhand having gone on.

Meanwhile, the Seongnam government is said to have increased the maximum floor space of the site of the Armed Forces Medical Command in 2015, the year after his hospitalization. The site includes the Armed Forces Capital Hospital.

The medical command reportedly filed an application to the government of Seongnam in January 2015 for the increase of the maximum floor space of the site so that it could build the Armed Forces Trauma Center. In November 2015, the city government approved the application. At that time, then-Mayor Lee had authority to give approval.

Thanks to the approval, the center was built as a four-story building, not three stories.

On the surface, the increase of the maximum floor space has little to do with the hospitalization of Lee’s elder son, but the timing is peculiar. If the opposition party’s suspicion that they may be linked is true, it would be a matter that cannot be ignored.

Leaving the barracks without an order is going AWOL. The hospitalization of Lee’s elder son without an order cannot be dismissed with an evasive explanation such as the “fault of a person in charge.”

The military authorities must break silence and disclose related facts, such as daily status reports. A thorough investigation is required to find the truth.

By Korea Herald (khnews@heraldcorp.com)