GYERYONGDAE -- Attending an unprecedented joint commissioning ceremony of South Korea's major military academies Friday, President Lee Myung-bak urged his military to be reborn as an "advanced, strong armed forces" through sweeping reform and stressed the importance of teamwork among soldiers "wearing different colors of uniforms."
"The military should make a revolutionary change in its system, organization and mindset through defense reform to become an advanced and strong military that wins every fight," Lee said in his speech during the ceremony held at the Gyeryongdae military headquarters in South Chungcheong Province, some 160 kilometers south of Seoul.
Lee called for the "spirit for the second founding" of the military.
He added that enhancing interoperability of the country's military organizations was necessary to counter North Korea's unexpected attacks highlighted by its deadly torpedo attack on a South Korean warship in March last year and the shelling of a border island eight months later.
"The colors of military uniforms are different but all the troops of the Republic of Korea are only the military of our fatherland and the people," he added, using the official name of South Korea.
Friday's event marked the first-ever commissioning ceremony for the graduates of six military academies, including Korea Military Academy, Korea Air Force Academy and the Republic of Korea Naval Academy, since the military's foundation in 1948.
A total of 5,309 cadets became new officers in the military.
Lee's office Cheong Wa Dae said the symbolic ceremony was designed to strengthen the interoperability of the armed forces and raise a sense of unity.
"In addition, the president, who is commander-in-chief, bestowed the mark of rank on new officers in person to enhance their fame and pride," it said in a press release.
Defense ministry officials said the joint ceremony was also aimed at avoiding a "leadership vacuum" while top military officers attend a series of separate academy events.