Military postpones candidate approval process
In a candidate screening process that began Sunday, major figures in the military, including chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force, finished vetting potential generals yesterday - a procedure that is usually completed in less than a day.
The approval meeting was slated to end the day it began at the Ministry of National Defense in Yongsan District, central Seoul, but in an unprecedented move, it extended well into yesterday due to calls for further investigation into candidates.
The prolonged process, overseen by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Choi Yun-hee, delayed President Park Geun-hye from holding a meeting to approve a new line of generals, which was initially scheduled to take place yesterday morning.
“It has been customary for the military minister to report to the president the outcomes of the appointment committee meeting and get an approval from the president,” said an official from the defense ministry, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Sources in the military say it is extremely rare for the armed forces not to report its personnel appointment results to Park on schedule, let alone delay the final decisions from receiving presidential approval.
“During my 30 years of service in the military, I have never seen a case in which the military could not report to the president its personnel decisions on time,” said a high-ranking military official, who also asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
A spokesman for the Defense Ministry said the meeting lasted longer than expected because of the military’s efforts to vet candidates more thoroughly in the aftermath of a number of mishaps that shook the armed forces this year.
Candidates are filtered through a screening process before their names are put on a final appointment report for the president to agree to.
One defense ministry official said that potential issues surfaced at the last minute during the Blue House’s selection process, a discovery that could also hint at problems with the military’s screening system.
The military had an unusually large number of empty spots in its high chain of command this year ahead of the promotion season due to a series of resignations by officials taking responsibility for a string of military mishaps.
A shooting spree of fellow conscripts by a sergeant who was bullied for months in a frontline unit, which left five dead, and the death of a private first class from a month of beatings by senior soldiers in another unit, led the Army Chief of Staff and other senior-ranking officials to step down.
The series of mishaps also spawned public criticism for what many see as the military’s highly exclusive culture and its lack of resolve to fix human rights abuses inside barracks.
Because of the high number of empty senior positions, the military decided to go ahead with personnel appointments a month earlier than usual this year to avoid potential confusion in the command chain as a result of the vacancies.
President Park is expected to give final approval to the appointment selections today.
BY JEONG YONG-SOO AND KANG JIN-KYU [firstname.lastname@example.org]