Park nominates former Army chief to head NIS

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Park nominates former Army chief to head NIS

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Nam Jae-joon, Kim Dong-yeon, Shin Je-yoon



President Park Geun-hye on Saturday nominated a former Army chief of staff to head the country’s main spy agency.

Nam Jae-joon, a 68-year-old retired general who served as deputy commander of the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command, was selected as chief of the National Intelligence Service, Yoon Chang-joong, spokesman of the Blue House, said Saturday.

Yoon said Park decided to announce the nomination to minimize the administrative vacuum and its impact on the national economy amidst growing concerns of North Korea’s additional provocations following its nuclear test.

“Nam is a man with a strong sense of national security,” Yoon said. “He will allow the National Intelligence Service to overcome the security crisis and play its role properly.”

Park also nominated Shin Je-yoon, the first vice minister of strategy and finance, to head the Financial Services Commission, Yoon said. Kim Dong-yeon, the second vice finance minister, was also named minister of the Prime Minister’s Office.

A renowned expert in international finance, Shin is the best candidate to head the state financial watchdog to overcome the global economic crisis, Yoon said.

Kim, a veteran civil servant on budget affairs, will also be in charge of coordinating state affairs amidst the economic slowdown, Yoon said.

Because the law on government organization hasn’t been revised yet, Kim will be appointed under the current title and later be reappointed as chief of the Office for Government Policy Coordination.

As Nam and Shin are required to undergo the National Assembly’s confirmation hearings, the Blue House will make the request to the legislature this week.

Nam graduated from the Korea Military Academy in 1969 and served various key posts in the military before his retirement in 2005. He served as Army chief of staff from 2003 to 2005 and the deputy commander of the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command from 2002 to 2003.

In 2000, he was appointed as chief director of operations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Since he retired from the military, Nam worked as professor at Seokyeong University in Seoul. He also supported Park’s presidential campaign last year as a senior defense policy adviser.

Park’s decision to name a former military general to head the National Intelligence Service means that the agency will focus more on North Korea issues than domestic politics, a presidential aide told the JoongAng Ilbo.

It is also the first time in 12 years that a former military general has been named to head the National Intelligence Service. While 20 out of 30 former heads of the country’s main spy agency were former military generals, six chiefs who headed the NIS since 2000 had no ties to the military.

The nomination of Nam to head the National Intelligence Service showed that former Army commanders also occupied top security posts in the Park administration.

The head of the National Security Office and the senior secretary for foreign affairs and security in the Blue House, ministers of foreign affairs, national defense and unification, and the head of the National Intelligence Service are considered the top six security posts, and three of them were occupied by former Army generals. Park has picked Kim Jang-soo as the chief of national security and Kim Byung-kwan the defense minister. A former military general, Park Heung-ryul, was also appointed as chief of the Presidential Security Service, showing Park’s trust in the military.

Speculation is also high that Nam’s nomination as intelligence chief is in line with Park’s personnel affairs style that she does not allow a second-in-command around her. By appointing Nam, Park probably intended to keep Kim Jang-soo in check, observers said.

The opposition Democratic United Party showed concerns about the imbalance in Park’s appointments.

“Nam was the 36th Army chief of staff, and Kim Jang-soo was his successor,” Representative Yun Kwan-seok, spokesman of the DUP, said. “And then Park Heung-ryul was Kim’s successor. We are worried that power will be focused on a certain faction in the military.”

Park also chose those who served in the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command in an apparent reflection of her vision to bolster the Korea-U.S. alliance. In addition to Nam, Kim Jang-soo and Kim Byung-kwan had served as the deputy commander of the Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command. Park’s first foreign minister, Yun Byung-se, is also a veteran U.S. affairs expert. Foreign affairs secretary at the Blue House, Kim Hyoung-zhin, is also a former head of the North America bureau in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]


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