Korea names new military chief

Korea names new military chief
South Korean army soldiers salute during a ceremony
PHOTO: Reuters

Army Gen. Lee Sun-jin was named the first-ever Army Academy graduate to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Monday in a major reshuffle of the top military leadership.

The 61-year-old chief of the Army's 2nd Operations Command will replace Adm. Choi Yoon-hee, whose two-year stint ends in October.

If he wins presidential approval on Tuesday and the ensuing parliamentary hearing, Lee will become the first Army Academy alumnus to take up South Korea's highest-ranking officer post on active duty, which has traditionally been occupied by those from the elite Military Academy.

Since the JCS' 1954 inception, only Army generals have assumed the chairmanship except in two cases ― the incumbent Choi and former Air Force Chief of Staff Lee Yang-ho who served from 1993-94.

A native of Daegu, Lee Sun-jin entered the academy in 1977. He also undertook key Army positions including head of the Aviation Operations Command, Capital Corps and the 2nd Infantry Division.

He gained fame for a pacific disposition and strong communication skills with not only colleagues but also rank-and-file servicemen, while helping advance joint rear area operational capabilities with US forces here, officials said.

"The selection was based on whether the nominees embraced the commander-in-chief's administrative philosophy and embody a reforming mind, expertise and leadership, as well as a comprehensive assessment of their ability, personality and command capability that are essential to overseeing our national security and the military," said Lee Hwang-gyu, director-general for personnel planning at the Defence Ministry.

As part of the shake-up, the ministry also nominated 1st Army commander Gen. Jang Jun-gyu as the new Army Chief of Staff, Vice Air Force Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo as the Air Force Chief of Staff, and 3rd Army commander Gen. Kim Hyun-jip as the deputy commander of the Combined Forces Command. Jeong was also promoted to general.

With Jeong's appointment, the incumbent Choi Cha-kyu will step down more than six months before the end of his term, which was marred by a series of corruption scandals.

Aviation Operations commander Lt. Gen. Kim Young-shik was named the next 1st Army commander, while Lt. Gen. Eom Ki-hak, chief of the JCS' operations command, is set to run the 3rd Army Command.

Vice Air Force Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Park Chan-ju will be the Army's first head of the 2nd Operations Command as an armour officer, the ministry added.

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