Moon replaces 7 out of 8 four-star generalsPresident Moon Jae-in on Tuesday named Air Force Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in a major reshuffle aimed at breaking the Army’s decades-long control over the military.
Jeong, the Air Force chief of staff, will be the third non-Army general to head the Joint Chiefs of Staff after Air Force Chief Lee Yang-ho and Navy Chief Choi Yoon-hee. He must go through a confirmation hearing at the National Assembly, but its judgment is non-binding.
The appointment is part of Moon’s plan to reform the military leadership, long dominated by Army leaders, particularly graduates of the Korea Military Academy. Moon appointed former Navy Chief of Staff Song Young-moo as his minister of national defense. If Jeong formally takes the post, it will be the first time in the Korean military’s 69-year history that Army leaders are excluded from its two top posts.
“Jeong is a specialist in joint operations, and we believed he was the best person to counter the North’s advancing nuclear and missile threats,” said a ministry official.
While the nation's 625,000-strong armed forces are structured heavily with conventional troops of the Army, North Korea has steadily bolstered its asymmetrical capabilities, such as nuclear weapons. Moon has promoted a plan to restructure the defense posture by strengthening Navy and Air Force capabilities.
The reshuffle also included six promotions of lieutenant generals to the rank of four-star generals. Army Lt. Gen. Kim Yong-woo, head of the strategy and planning office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was promoted and appointed Army Chief of Staff.
Army Lt. Gen. Kim Byung-ju, commander of the Third Corp, was promoted and appointed deputy commander of the Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command. Air Force Lt. Gen. Lee Wang-keun, chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s military support office, was promoted and appointed Air Force Chief of Staff.
The Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Um Hyun-seong, was retained. He was appointed to the post last September.
Moon also replaced three top Army commanders, including the scandal-plagued Gen. Park Chan-ju. The commander of the 2nd Operational Command is facing a criminal investigation by military prosecutors for mistreating soldiers assigned to his residence. His wife was also accused of mistreating them.
Although the general asked for discharge, Moon did not allow it. Park was transferred to a policy study section with no formal title to face further investigation.
Lt. Gen. Park Jong-jin was promoted and named commander of the First Army. Lt. Gen. Park Han-ki was promoted and appointed commander of the Second Operational Command to replace Park Chan-ju. Lt. Gen. Kim Woon-yong was promoted and appointed Third Army commander.
The Ministry of National Defense said the promotions and appointments were decided based on the officer’s abilities to support Moon’s defense reforms.
The reshuffle significantly reduced the number of graduates of the Korea Military Academy in the military leadership. Alumni of the elite academy have long dominated top positions in the leadership. The first graduate of the Korea Military Academy to be promoted to the four-star general rank was the late President Park Chung Hee. Former Presidents Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae-woo were also graduates of the academy.
While the newly appointed Army Chief of Staff Kim Yong-woo is a graduate of the Korea Military Academy, only one of the three field commanders of the Army, Kim Woon-yong, is an alumnus. Park Jong-jin is a graduate of the Korea Army Academy at Yeongcheon and Park Han-ki joined the service through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.
Some generals failed to be promoted based on the Moon administration’s belief that they treated soldiers unfairly and unreasonably, military sources told the JoongAng Ilbo.
BY SER MYO-JA [email@example.com]