Seoul is seeking to revive the standing secretariat of the National Security Council as security concerns increase due to shifts in the North Korean leadership and the region’s simmering territorial rows and historical animosities.
Following President Park Geun-hye’s directive on Monday, government officials are discussing how to organize the secretariat, which the former Lee Myung-bak administration abolished amid an administrative overhaul six years ago.
The recent execution of Jang Song-thaek, the uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and China’s unilateral demarcation of an air defense zone have apparently influenced Park’s decision to reinstate a permanent NSC office, observers said.
Park’s push for the overarching security office also comes as China and Japan have recently created their own national security institutions amid their stepped-up push to bolster their maritime security clout in the region.
China decided to institute a national security committee during the plenary meeting of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party last month. Japan has recently enacted a law to create the NSC, highlighting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to raise the country’s security profile.
Lee Jeong-hyun, Park’s chief press secretary, told reporters that the revival of the NSC office is needed to “proactively and effectively” respond to situations on the peninsula and changes in the regional security landscape.
Cheong Wa Dae currently has a small-scale National Security Office ― a control tower for security and foreign affairs, which is led by former Defense Minister Kim Jang-soo. But observers say the office needs to be expanded with more staff to handle current and future security challenges.
Seoul has been struggling to address a series of security conundrums including the North Korean nuclear standoff, Japan’s persistent claim to Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo and the long-simmering jurisdictional spat over the submerged rock of Ieodo in the East China Sea.
But there has been little progress in Seoul’s efforts to resolve all these critical issues. Some argue that security conditions of the peninsula and beyond have become even worse, and call for more effective approaches to the issues.
The NSC is a premier security advisory meeting based on Article 91 of the Constitution. It is presided over by the president and attended by the prime minister and top officials in charge of defense, foreign affairs, unification and intelligence.
The NSC was first instituted in 1962 under the directive of former President Park Chung-hee, the father of the current president. The permanent secretariat was established by late former President Kim Dae-jung and its role was further strengthened by late former President Roh Moo-hyun.
The Lee Myung-bak government abolished the NSC office in 2008 while pushing for an administrative revamp, and delegated the office’s functions to the office of the senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs and security.
By Song Sang-ho (email@example.com