Navy leaders stare down reshuffle

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Navy leaders stare down reshuffle

The Navy’s leadership is facing a major reshuffle following a series of massive corruption scandals involving current and former admirals as well as sexual harassment allegations surrounding incumbent officers.

“The personnel appointment committee wrapped up on Tuesday,” a senior official in the Ministry of National Defense told the JoongAng Ilbo. “For now, we have decided to make promotions for three three-star admirals.”

The promotions are set to replace three out of six key posts in the Navy that are occupied by vice admirals. “The reshuffle is intended to bring a breath of fresh air to the Navy after its image was tainted by various embarrassments and corruption,” the official added.

In February, Adm. Hwang Ki-chul, the Navy’s chief of staff, stepped down to take responsibility for corruption allegations concerning a botched procurement project.

Vice Chief of Staff Chung Ho-seop was promoted as an admiral to succeed Hwang, while Chung’s former post has remained vacant. In the upcoming reshuffle, a new vice chief of staff will be selected.

A replacement to head the Naval Academy will also be determined. Vice Adm. Koo Ok-hyoe, the superintendent of the Korea Naval Academy, was relieved of his duties last month, though no reason was given for his dismissal.

In the upcoming reshuffle, the Navy will also replace Lee Young-ju, the commander of the Marine Corps, even though he has only served in that position 18 months. Lee was reportedly ordered to step down at the end of last month with six months left in his tenure.

The intended changes, however, are not slated to affect one vice admiral who stands accused of sexually harassing a young golf caddy at a military country club. The Navy said he was excluded because the disciplinary hearing against him has not yet taken place.

“Originally we talked about replacing him this time, but there are still legal issues to be resolved, so we excluded him at this time,” a Navy official said.

The Defense Ministry has decided that no appointments will be made for general-level officers. The Army will rearrange its posts for three lieutenant generals, while the Air Force will promote two officers to lieutenant generals.

A Blue House official told the JoongAng Ilbo that the vetting process for the upcoming reshuffle will be more thorough than ever.

“At the beginning of the Park Geun-hye administration, we accepted almost all the recommendations from the Ministry of National Defense, without our own independent vetting process,” he said. “But the office of the presidential secretary for civil affairs conducted a review last year and found that a few unfit candidates had been recommended. This time, we will more thoroughly investigate the candidates.”

Promotion recommendations were submitted to Defense Minister Han Min-koo on Wednesday, and the Blue House is scheduled to vet the candidates for next week.

After an adjustment with the ministry, President Park will receive the confirmation list by the middle of next week.

BY JEONG YONG-SOO [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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