Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Choi Yoon-hee has been tapped as South Korea’s new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in an effort to strengthen inter-service cooperation and maritime defense, the Defense Ministry said Wednesday.
It is the first time a Navy official has been named to the highest active-duty post. Except for former Air Force Gen. Lee Yang-ho who led the JCS from 1993-94, the post has been held by Army generals.
Reputed for his expertise in naval strategies, education and training, Choi is to replace current JCS Chairman Jung Seung-jo whose two-year term expires soon. The JCS chief nominee is subject to parliamentary approval.
Choi’s nomination was announced as part of the first reshuffle of top brass since the Park Geun-hye administration took office in February.
“To bolster cooperation among all armed service branches and promote their unity, a Navy chief has been picked to head the JCS for the first time since the country’s armed forces were founded (in 1948),” said Park Dae-seop, a senior ministry official in charge of human resources and welfare.
“We believe that given the possible provocations by the North in waters near the western sea border, the CNO is capable of carrying out his duty as the JCS chairman.”
In the reshuffle, Gen. Kwon Oh-sung, the deputy chief of the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command, was named the new Army chief of staff.
|Kwon Oh-sung, Hwang Ki-chul|
Vice Adm. Hwang Ki-chul, the head of the Naval Academy, was named as the new Navy chief, while Lt. Gen. Park Seon-woo, the head of the JCS operations division, was tapped for the post of deputy CFC commander.
Lt. Gen. Shin Hyun-don, the head of the JCS military support division, was named the new commander of the 1st Army, while Major Gen. Lee Young-ju, a ministry official in charge of combat posture inspection, was named to lead the Marine Corps.
Their official appointments require approval at the Cabinet meeting scheduled to be convened on Thursday.
Army chief nominee Kwon is known for his deep knowledge in ground operations and strategies. He formerly served as the chief of the JCS operations division, commander of the 1st Army Corps and commander of the 15th Army Division.
Navy chief nominee Hwang is best known for his role in commanding a naval operation to rescue a South Korean oil tanker hijacked by Somali pirates in 2011.
The government plans to conduct a reshuffle of the three-star officials in the middle of October.
“As for the reshuffle of three-star generals, the government will select generals based on their personal capabilities, professionalism and personalities, irrespective of where they hail from,” Park told reporters.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)