[Newsmaker] Air Force chief tapped as new JCS chairman

By Yeo Jun-suk
  • Published : Aug 8, 2017 - 14:32
  • Updated : Aug 8, 2017 - 18:37
 Chief of the Air Force Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo was tapped as South Korea’s new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Tuesday, in the first reshuffle of top military leadership since President Moon Jae-in took office in May.

During a Cabinet meeting Tuesday, Moon approved the nomination of Jeong. If Jeong receives a parliamentary nod, the 56-year-old general will replace the current JCS chief, Army Gen. Lee Sun-jin, and become the second Air Force officer to take the highest active-duty post.

Having served as chief director of strategic planning at the JCS in 2014, Jeong “is the perfect fit for leading efforts to unify every service, overhaul the military and maintain robust readiness,” the Ministry of National Defense said in a statement.

Jeong’s nomination is seen as part of Moon’s efforts to reform the military by reducing its overreliance on the Army. It would mark the first time in 23 years for an Air Force personnel to take the JCS top job, which was mostly held by Army generals. Current Defense Minister Song Young-moo is a retired Navy admiral.

In the South Korean military’s 69 years of history, there were only two JCS chiefs who did not hail from the Army, former Navy chief Adm. Choi Yoon-hee, who assumed the role in 2013, and former Air Force chief Lee Yang-ho who took the JSC office in 1993. 

Chief of the Air Force Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo

In Tuesday’s reshuffle, Lt. Gen Kim Yong-woo, commander of the 1st Army’s Corps, was promoted to new Army chief of staff. Air Force Lt. Gen. Lee Wang-keun, who currently serves as chief director of military support at the JCS, was tapped as the new Air Force chief of staff.

Lt. Gen. Kim Byeong-joo, commander of the 3rd Army’s corps, was named the new deputy commander of the South Korea-US Combined Forces Command. The CFC deputy commander will double as the chief of the Army’s ground operational command during wartime.

The chiefs of the Army’s supreme commands were also changed, with Lt. Gen. Park Jong-jin promoted to commander of the 1st Army and Lt. Gen. Kim Woon-yong appointed to commander of the 3rd Army.

Lt. Gen. Park Han-ki, commander of the 8th Army corps, was named the chief of 2nd operational command to replace the current commander, Gen. Park Chan-joo, who is now subject to questioning over his alleged abuse of enlisted soldiers assigned to serve at his residence.

Among the three top Army generals overseeing the massive field army, Gen. Kim Woon-yong is the only one to have graduated from the Army’s elite Military Academy. Gens. Park Jong-jin and Park Han-ki were commissioned from the Army Academy and the Reserved Officer Training Corps, respectively.

The government will conduct another reshuffle in September, appointing new lieutenant generals and ranks below, as well as other senior defense officials, according to the Defense Ministry.

By Yeo Jun-suk (