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Work begins to overhaul military intelligence unit

Goal is to increase civilian oversight of security command
Aug 07,2018
The Ministry of National Defense launched a task force on Monday to plan a major overhaul of the military’s beleaguered Defense Security Command (DSC). The task force has until Sept. 1 to lay the groundwork for a new intelligence unit.

The ministry plans to formally disband the DSC and rechristen it as a unit that roughly translates to “military security support command,” though both their roles will be similar. The dissolution of the DSC will mark the end of its 27-year history, triggered by recent revelations that it drew up martial law plans last year before the Constitutional Court upheld President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment.

Lt. Gen. Nam Young-shin, who replaced Lt. Gen. Lee Suk-koo last Friday as head of the DSC, will lead the task force, which includes 20 other members, all from the military. Nam previously served as commander of the Army’s Special Warfare Command.

The Defense Ministry said it has tapped Choe Kang-wuk, a former military lawyer who is now a civilian lawyer, to serve as an adviser. An official from the ministry who spoke on the condition of anonymity cited his “reformative” character as a key reason for why the military decided to choose him.

The military plans to have more civilian oversight of the new intelligence unit by appointing a civilian to lead the command’s audit office, an official from the Defense Ministry said. “A major problem in the DSC was that it was weak with keeping itself in check,” the source said, “which is why [the new unit] should be kept under continuous surveillance.”

The head of the audit office will likely go to a bureaucrat in the ministry or a prosecutor at or above grade 2 in Korea’s nine-tier civil service system, or a high-level official from the Board of Audit and Inspection, the ministry said.

The positions of commander and chief of staff will go to generals, the ministry said, but it will cap the number of military officers in the unit to 70 percent, with the rest of the positions held by civilians. The new unit will be in charge of internal security, counterintelligence, and collecting and processing military information.

The DSC used to cover similar roles, employing about 4,200 members from the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps as well as civilian bureaucrats. The new command will seek to slash that figure by 30 percent.

BY LEE CHUL-JAE, LEE KEUN-PYUNG [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]