South Korean President Moon Jae-in has nominated Army Chief of Staff Gen. Suh Wook as a new Minister of National Defense on Friday. The decision seems to ensure drive to purse key national defense policies, such as the transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON), in the latter half of the president’s term in office. Suh is the first defense minister nominee from the ROK Army in the Moon administration.
"He has ample experiences in field maneuvers and military operations, and has expertise in joint and combined operations," presidential office Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Kang Min-seok said. “Securing a strong readiness posture and driving OPCON transfer based on ROK-U.S. alliance is the purpose of the nomination,” said a member of Cheong Wa Dae regarding the first nomination of an Army Gen. in the Moon administration. “He is the figure to reform the organization.” A case in which an Army Chief of Staff Gen. is nominated as a defense minister without serving as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff came for the first time in 14 years since former Defense Minister Kim Jang-soo in 2006.
Suh who was commissioned as a graduate of the 41st class of Korea Military Academy in 1985 is considered to be one of the Army’s representative experts in strategy, serving as a 1st Corps Commander, and the head of operations and the director of the operation center at the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “He is considered to have the highest level of expertise in strategy among all four-star generals,” said a military source.
In particular, Suh had served at the Joint Chiefs of Staff from the inauguration of the current administration until April 2019 when he was appointed as Army Chief Gen., working with the pending military issues regarding North Korea and the U.S. His involvement in the September 19 inter-Korean military agreement and contribution to encouraging cooperation of the United States Forces Korea and the United Nations Command for the implementation of the agreement, such as the removal of guard posts, since his appointment as the director of the operation center at the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2017 seems to have been also considered for his nomination.
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