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New chief vow strong, corruption-free Navy

The new head of the South Korean Navy pledged Friday to build a strong and trustworthy naval force to regain public confidence after a series of scandals that revealed lax discipline.

Adm. Chung Ho-seop took the helm of the 70,000-strong Navy to replace outgoing Adm. Hwang Ki-chul, who stepped down to take responsibility for corruption allegations involving the country's indigenous salvage ship, the Tongyeong.

"We have to squarely face the reality where we've lost trust due to corruption allegations in the defense industry and sex crimes by the officers," Chung said in his speech during the inauguration ceremony. "Corruption and old practices cannot be forgiven anymore."

Demanding that commanders who stay "mired in old practices" leave their posts, he vowed to make continued efforts for reform and innovation and to take the lead in anti-corruption campaigns.

"We should be born again to be a strong and honorable Navy that always wins, to lead the future battlefield and to establish solid readiness posture," said the new chief, who has built his career in naval operations and broad defense policy.

In December, the state auditor, the Board of Audit and Inspection, said the 3,500-ton Tongyeong was fraught with problems which in part were caused by a number of military officers suspected of taking bribes from a local firm that supplied faulty parts for the ship. A massive prosecutorial investigation is under way.

The drawbacks effectively prevented the vessel from being deployed for rescue operations in the aftermath of April's ferry sinking that killed more than 300 people, even though the Tongyeong was delivered to the Navy in December after passing an operational capability test. (Yonhap)