Go to contents

Military reshuffle to form powerful command mulled

Posted December. 30, 2010 11:26,   


The Defense Ministry proposed in a briefing to the president Wednesday the integration of the military’s upper line of command and establishment of a Northeast Waters Command for defending South Korea’s five Yellow Sea islands.

○ Joint military commander to control both military command, administration

The joint military commander will take the right to military command, including that of heading military operations, from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in additional to being in charge of military administration, including the formation of military units and personnel management, a power the Joints Chiefs chairman lacks.

Whether the chairman will double as the joint military commander or the new post will remain separate remains unknown. If the post is made separate, the chairman will have his role reduced to that of a presidential adviser.

Also under consideration is integration of the structures of the Army, Navy and Air Force, which are divided into their respective headquarters and operational commands, to unify them as the Army Command, Navy Command and Air Force Command (tentative titles).

Reshuffle of the upper chain of command in this manner was considered whenever military reform was discussed. The key is whether such reform will be put into practice rather than verbally discussed.

The Defense Ministry aims to push for these measures as a mid-term plan and complete it by 2012.

Many people in and out of the military, however, doubt whether a reshuffle of the upper chain of command will be implemented under the Lee Myung-bak administration. Chances are high that the three branches of the armed forces and military organizations will have acute conflicts of interests.

A retired military general said, “Unifying military administration and command to help improve combat capability is the right approach, but massive power that is potentially difficult to control could be created within the military, and this must be considered.”

○ Northwest Waters Command

The ministry will also seek to establish a Northwest Waters Command to exclusively oversee South Korea`s five islands in the Yellow Sea, whose strategic value has soared. A military source said, “It’s been decided that the establishment of the command will be pursued next year.”

The Navy’s 2nd Fleet and the Marines Command took charge of defense in the region, but critics say cooperation has been lacking in times of emergency.

Additionally, the military will deploy detection, surveillance, attack and air defense capabilities in the region to prepare for a North Korean shelling attack or landing, and transform the region into a fortress as soon as possible.

The Committee for the Advancement of National Defense proposed appointment of a Marines lieutenant general to head the proposed command and temporary transfer of troops to form the command as a joint unit, including those from the Marines’ 2nd Division and the Yeonpyeong Battalion of the Marines’ Brigade, forces from the Navy’s 2nd Fleet, and the Air Force’s Liaison Unit.

A military official said, “Many plans are being discussed but since the project requires integration of capacities from different forces, the decision will be made only after adequate review and consideration.”

The Defense Ministry will also settle and consolidate a promotion review system based on free competition. A candidate’s hometown, graduation from a military academy, and the year of entry into the military will not be considered.

A comprehensive review system to evaluate officer performance and eligibility for promotion will also seek to maximize the performance of senior officers.

On training for new conscripts, training sessions will be operated Saturdays and the training period will be extended from five weeks to eight to enable them to conduct combat missions soon after joining the military.

The size of the nation’s standing army will also stay at 500,000 through late 2020.