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[Newsmaker] Ex-army chief to head intelligence service

Nam Jae-joon
Nam Jae-joon
President Park Geun-hye on Saturday added Nam Jae-joon, another retired general, to her national security and foreign policy staff, in an apparent show of her resolve to effectively deal with escalating North Korean threats.

Nam, the former Army chief of staff, will be the first graduate of the Korea Military Academy in 12 years to lead the National Intelligence Service after the confirmation hearing process is completed at the National Assembly.

Park’s picks for the top security and diplomacy posts include two other former generals ― Kim Jang-soo and Kim Byung-kwan, who were tapped to head the national security office in Cheong Wa Dae and the Defense Ministry, respectively.

Opposition parties claimed too many army retirees taking the posts could hamper the sharing of ideas and policy proposals from various perspectives, while the ruling Saenuri Party said they would help cope with increasing nuclear and missile threats by North Korea.

Nam has long served as a key security-related adviser to Park. In the presidential nomination race of the then-Grand National Party in 2007, he worked as a special aide to her on defense and security matters. He was also part of Park’s election camp last year.

After he was commissioned as second lieutenant in 1965, Nam built his image as a “clean, scholar-like” commander for his integrity, principle-based leadership and professionalism. He wrapped up his four-decade military career in 2005 after resigning amid a probe into alleged irregularities in the promotion of generals.

During his final years in the military, he opposed a series of government plans, including reducing mandatory military service terms and troop numbers, and the retaking of wartime operational control from Washington. Due to his overt opposition to these plans, he often clashed with then-President Roh Moo-hyun.

Nam has served in several top military posts: commander of the Capital Defense Command in 1998; operations division chief at the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2000; deputy commander of the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command in 2002; and Army chief of staff from 2003 through 2005.

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