President Lee Myung-bak said Monday that South Korea's military is diversifying its role and mission, from deterring war on the Korean Peninsula to peacekeeping, recovery and rescue work abroad.
"Our troops are emerging as a military that contributes to the world's peace beyond the protection of its fatherland and peace on the Korean Peninsula," Lee said in his biweekly radio address.
He pointed out that more than 1,400 South Korean troops are operating in 17 nations to maintain peace and provide support to disaster-hit areas.
The president said the South Korean military's growing role was demonstrated in a successful commando raid on Somali pirates in January and the recent evacuation of South Koreans from Libya by the 4,500-ton destroyer Choi Young.
"The military of 'A Bigger Republic of Korea,' which is exploring the largest economic territory in the world through free trade agreements and leading global agendas as a member of the G-20, is now a key player in world peace," he said.
He also emphasized the importance of bolstering the interoperability of the army, the navy and the air force.
"In defense reform revolving around the strengthening of interoperability, a unified mind and strong military spirit are more important," Lee added.
He attended an unprecedented joint commissioning ceremony of more than 5,000 cadets at the country's major military academies held last Friday at the Gyeryongdae military headquarters in South Chungcheong Province, some 160 kilometers south of Seoul.
Lee also sent congratulatory text messages to the cadets later, according to his office Cheong Wa Dae. (Yonhap News)