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Ex-generals to be briefed on reforms

Retired officers say plans to revamp military do not go far enough


The Ministry of National Defense will hold a three-day session next week to outline to retired general-grade officers its military reform efforts, which critics claim will not effectively address problems in the military.

About 600 retired general-grade officers are expected to attend the session from Tuesday to Thursday next week, ministry officials said. Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin signed all invitation cards to about 2,500 retirees, they added.

“We have held such sessions for retired generals each year on a regular basis. The session this time is aimed at seeking their opinions on military reform measures,” a ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Park Jong-heon (second from right) presides over a meeting of Air Force commanders to explain military reform efforts at the Gyeryongdae military headquarters in South Chungcheong Province on Monday. (Yonhap News)
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Park Jong-heon (second from right) presides over a meeting of Air Force commanders to explain military reform efforts at the Gyeryongdae military headquarters in South Chungcheong Province on Monday. (Yonhap News)

The military is currently carrying out a major military reform aimed at streamlining the top command structure with a focus on enhancing interoperability among all military branches and bolstering combat capabilities to better deal with North Korean provocations.

The reform moves came in the wake of the sinking of the corvette Cheonan last March and the artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island last November. The two attacks killed 50 South Koreans, including two civilians.

The ministry plans to submit to the National Assembly revised bills for military reform in the coming months.

However, some retirees have strongly opposed the reform moves, arguing that they do not constitute a genuine overhaul of the military, which critics say has become “complacent” despite continuing military threats from the North.

A group of former top military officers, including former Air Force chief Lee Han-ho and former Chief of Naval Operations Ahn Byeong-tae, recently said that it would launch a taskforce to stop the ministry’s efforts to legislate for its reform measures.

Many opponents appear disappointed as the current reform measures fall short of their expectations for stronger authority for Navy and Air Force officials in military decision-making and more efficient interoperability.

They have pointed out that all military operations have been inordinately influenced by Army officials even where they involved naval or aerial operations, stressing that the two deadly attacks clearly revealed shortcomings of the “Army-dominated” military.

Aware of such opposition, the ministry was said to have considered delaying the session as it could become a venue for critics to raise issues to their advantage.

The ministry has tried to broaden public support for its reform measures in recent months. It has held a series of meetings with former defense ministers, journalists and lawmakers to gather their opinions and seek their understanding.

By Song Sang-ho  (sshluck@heraldcorp.com)
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