Military tries to get branches to work together

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Military tries to get branches to work together

Korea is considering adopting a rotation system in which Army, Navy and Air Force generals head the Joint Chiefs of Staff in turn, according to government sources yesterday.

Until now, the Army, which accounts for around 80 percent of the Armed Forces, has dominated the post commanding around 650,000 soldiers. Seoul has been trying to increase cooperation among the three armed services after the sinking of a warship, apparently by North Korea, in March.

“As far as I know, a plan to rotate the position of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff among the Army, Navy and Air Force is being considered,” said a government official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “The government and the military are thinking that the rotation system will make up for the shortcomings of the existing joint military system.”

Another government official said the idea was discussed at a national security meeting at the Blue House on Sunday, which he said drew a positive response from the participants.

“It sounds like it (the rotation system) won’t have any major obstacles, doesn’t it,” President Lee Myung-bak was quoted as saying by the official after the meeting.

Lee stressed that reform of personnel management is a key to improving the military’s capabilities, the official said.

When the 1,200-ton naval vessel Cheonan, along with 46 South Korean sailors, was sunk near the marine border with North Korea on March 26, critics said the military response to the incident was poor and blamed a lack of cooperation among the military branches.

Among the 36 generals who have served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff since 1954, all but one were from the Army. The exception was the 25th chairman, Lee Yang-ho, an Air Force general, who held the post in 1993 and 1994. Army personnel currently number 520,000, while Navy and Air Force personnel are 68,000 and 65,000, respectively.

“The style of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman is a crucial determinant of the military’s tactics,” said Jeon Kyoung-mann, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses.

“At a time when military tactics are required to be more flexible, rotating the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman post will help maximize the military’s capabilities.”

Another government official told the JoongAng Ilbo that the government is also considering establishing an integrated military academy structure.

Currently, there is little personnel or education exchanges between the nation’s Military Academy, Naval Academy and Air Force Academy.

The official said the tentatively-named Defense Academy will be a headquarters for the three existing academies and provide the same one-year curriculum, and get-together opportunities, for new cadets at the three academies.

The Korea Army Academy at Yeongcheon, or KAAY, is a two-year academy that is open to applicants who have finished at least two years of college. The Defense Ministry is also planning to incorporate the school into the Korea Military Academy.


By Moon Gwang-lip, Kim Min-seok [joe@joongang.co.kr]
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