Defense chief nominee seen as joint ops expert, fit for defense reform
SEOUL, Defense Minister nominee Jeong Kyeong-doo, the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), is seen as an expert in joint military operations and fit to lead defense reform long marred by inter-service rivalries.
Following a parliamentary hearing process, the 58-year-old Air Force general will replace Song Young-moo, a retired admiral. It will be the first time for a retired Air Force officer to take the ministerial post in nearly a quarter century.
Jeong has helmed the JCS since August last year after being chosen for the highest active-duty post for the first time as an Air Force member in 24 years.
"Should I be given the mission (as minister), I would make flat-out efforts to safeguard peace in the Republic of Korea and the safety of our citizens," he said in a text message sent to reporters.
"In addition, I will do my utmost for strong security and defense by completing the defense reform initiative, which is a strict order from citizens," he added.
Jeong is seen as well suited to carry out defense reform that's seen as targeting the Army that has been under fire for a series of political allegations, including some members' online operations to back former conservative governments.
The defense reform plan, which involves a reduction of 118,000 Army troops, including 66 general-level posts and seeks a "balance" among all armed services, has apparently triggered resistance from the Army.
Since being commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1982, he has served in various prominent posts, such as the Air Force chief of staff, JCS strategic planning chief, Air Force strategic planning chief and southern air combat commander.
He is a veteran fighter pilot with flight experience of some 2,800 hours.
He graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1982. In 2002, he finished a master's degree course in business administration at Hannam University.
Early this year, he reported 1.09 billion won (US$987,956) in his total wealth.
Source: Yonhap News Agency