Seoul’s top military brass reshuffled

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Seoul’s top military brass reshuffled

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From left: Lee Sun-jin, Jang Jun-gyu, Kim Hyun-jip

The Park Geun-hye administration announced a major reshuffle of the military’s top brass on Monday, nominating Army Gen. Lee Sun-jin as the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In a reshuffle that replaced seven out of eight four-star generals, Lee, the commander of Korea’s Second Operations Command, was named to the top military post. Lee, 61, is known as a specialist in joint operations, education and training.

Lee graduated from the Korea Army Academy at Yeongcheon (KAAY) in Yeongcheon, North Gyeongsang, in 1977. He is the first graduate of KAAY to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

A native of Daegu, Lee is also a high school classmate of Rep. Choi Kyung-hwan, deputy prime minister for the economy and finance minister.

Lee’s administrative philosophy, professionalism, leadership and innovative capacity were considered in the nomination, the Ministry of National Defense said. Lee will have to go through a confirmation hearing at the National Assembly.

Defense officials praised Lee’s character, organizational skills and pragmatism. “He is the best man to unite and reform the military at the same time, while maintaining thorough military readiness,” a ministry official said.

Gen. Jang Jun-gyu, commander of the First Army, was named Army chief of staff. General Kim Hyun-jip, commander of the Third Army, was appointed deputy commander of the Korea-U.S. Combined Forces
Command.

The reshuffle also included the promotion of four lieutenant generals to the rank of general.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo was promoted to Air Force chief of staff.

Lt. Gen. Kim Yeong-sik, commander of the Aviation Operations Command, was promoted to First Army commander. Lt. Gen. Eom Gi-hak, commander of operations at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was named Third Army commander.

Lt. Gen. Park Chan-ju, vice chief of staff of the Army, was also promoted to commander of the Second Operations Command.

Among the top eight generals, only Adm. Chung Ho-seop, Navy chief of staff, retained his post, which he assumed in February.

The appointments will be approved at a Cabinet meeting today before final approval from President Park. Further promotions and reshuffles will follow next month.

The announcement of the military reshuffle is something of a surprise, as it took place in the absence of Defense Minister Han Min-koo. Han left the country on Thursday for a five-day trip to Australia and the Philippines.

The ministry said the announcement was made as scheduled, separate from Han’s trip.

“Adm. Choi Yoon-hee, the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, completes his term on Oct. 15, so the ministry took into account the confirmation hearing schedule, as well as the National Assembly’s audits of the Army and Air Force scheduled for next week,” a ministry official said. “The president and the defense minister communicate around the clock, so they have been discussing the reshuffle [even without Han’s presence in the country].”

When President Park named Choi chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2013, it was seen as a surprise because the position is usually occupied by Army generals. Choi was the first Navy chief of staff to rise to that position.

Speculation was high that the military will go back to the tradition of being led by an Army general, but the elevation of an alumnus of KAAY, not the Korea Military Academy, was seen as an unconventional choice. Until Choi was named to the top military post, all previous chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were alumni of the Korea Military Academy, with the exception of an Air Force chief taking the helm from 1993-94.

Established in 1968, KAAY offers a two-year program of education and military training for college graduates and transfer students to become
officers.

The Korea Military Academy has a longer history, as it was established in 1946 as the South Joseon Defense Academy by the National Defense Command, the predecessor of the Defense Ministry, under the authority of the then U.S.-military administration. It provides a four-year program for high school graduates.

BY SER MYO-JA, JEONG YONG-SOO [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]




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