Defense shake-up coming

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Defense shake-up coming

Ahead of the 65th annual Armed Forces Day on Oct. 1, the Park Geun-hye administration is planning to put new officials in command of the nation’s military, a defense official said yesterday.

According to the high-level official, the government plans a shake-up of its military command “ahead of Armed Forces Day, including the chiefs of staff, the Army, Navy and Air Force.”

The official told the JoongAng Ilbo that Park Dae-seob, head of the Ministry of National Defense’s personnel and welfare office, visited the Blue House last week to discuss military appointments in the second half of the year.

Following the Blue House meeting, the ministry instructed each of its branches last Thursday “to complete field-grade officer appointments by mid-September,” said the source.

The military official added that originally, the appointments were to be carried out by mid-October but “because of the government’s plan for early military appointments, it will be carried out a month earlier than planned,” and “promotion of generals will also be completed by September.”

Top defense officials had carried over from the Lee Myung-bak administration as Park’s defense minister nominee, Kim Byung-kwan, failed to win approval from the National Assembly at his confirmation hearing amid accusations of past ethical lapses such as taking bribes and tax evasion.

Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin was reappointed to the post by Park to maintain national security in the face of heightened threats from North Korea. Other defense appointments were stalled with the administrative transition.

The shake-up of defense officials usually takes place in April and October, and field-grade officials are usually promoted between the end of September and mid-October.

The official added, “Jeong Seung-jo, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who was appointed on Oct. 26, 2011, has already completed his two-year term, and a successor has to be selected by the latter half of September considering that the law requires a confirmation hearing to be requested one month prior.”

He expects the “transition will be smooth,” starting with the Joint Chiefs chairman and other high-level appointments.

The military officials to be replaced include Army Chief of Staff Cho Jung-hwan, Navy Chief of Staff Choi Yoon-hee and Air Force Chief of Staff Sung Il-hwan. General Choi’s two-year term comes to an end on Oct. 17, but the other two have approximately six months remaining in their terms. Even so, for the administration, the Armed Forces Day seemed a fitting time for the shake-up, the source said.

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