President Moon Jae-in said he would sternly deal with forces that seek to block reform of the Korea Defense Intelligence Command, it has been confirmed. He apparently issued a stern warning against those in the military and political circle who seek to block reform of the command by exploiting the situation arising from a document on the command’s review of the possibility for martial law during former President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment process.
According to sources in the presidential office and the military on Friday, President Moon said, “The Defense Ministry is seeking to reform the Defense Intelligence Command, and there seems to be forces that seek to dampen the effort.” He made the remarks when instructing an independent investigation into the DIS document during his visit to India on Wednesday. “I will sternly deal with this issue as well,” he said. He reportedly stopped short of specifying who the “force” seeking to block the reform.
Sources in and outside the military believe the president expressed strong commitment to ensure that the command’s reform, which Defense Minister Song Young-moo is pushing for as a key agenda of his defense reform, will fizzle out due to the situation surrounding the controversial document. “The presidential office judges that lying behind the rumors of demand for dismissal or replacement of Minister Song is political intention or plot aimed at blocking reform of the command,” a source said.
“There were news reports that portrayed controversy over the document regarding martial law as a sign of conflict between the presidential office and the Defense Ministry, but it is not true,” presidential spokesman Kim Ui-gyeom said on Friday. “This is a typical case of misguiding the objective.”
Meanwhile, the military authority reportedly gave debriefing on the document to the presidential office twice between late March and late April. Lee Seok-gu, commander of the Defense Intelligence Command, expressed his intention to report the matter to the presidential office when first reporting the issue to Minister Song late March, and Song approved it. Another source in the government said, “I understand that Commander Lee reported on the document to the presidential office.” The source said Minister Song also mentioned the issue as a case that significantly compromised the military’s political neutrality, when he visited the presidential office to debrief a plan to reform the command around late April.