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The meeting of top military commanders for the first half of 202...

The meeting of top military commanders for the first half of 2023 takes place

-Discussed major outstanding issues for peace through strength with a strong combat-oriented military and the collective efforts of all military branches
-Emphasized a strong combat-oriented military, defense innovation, and a culture to boost pride and morale of junior officers

On Monday, July 3, the Defense Ministry held the meeting of top military commanders for the first half of 2023, hosted by Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup.

The meeting was attended by key officers of the Defense Ministry, Joint Chiefs of Staff, military branches and institutions, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Kim Seung-kyum, Chief of Staff of the Army Park Jeong-hwan, Chief of Naval Operations Lee Jong-ho, Air Force Chief of Staff Jung Sang-hwa, and Deputy Commandant of the Marine Corps Jeong Jong-beom.

Due to the security situation with North Korea’s ceaseless threats, some commanders participated by video conferencing, and the meeting focused on major outstanding issues.

In his opening remarks, Minister Lee praised the efforts of commanders, soldiers, civilian employees and government employees who are dedicated to fulfilling their duties. He said that substantial progress has been made toward building a strong military and enhancing the combat force of combat units and expressed his appreciation.

Minister Lee also asked for dedication to expanding performance in key defense policy initiatives for 2023 such as strengthening the response to North Korea’s nuclear program and missiles, building up combined exercises, and enhancing US extended deterrence implementation, as well as implementation of Defense Innovation 4.0, and transformation of the base into a strong military in the second half of this year.

In particular, Minister Lee highlighted the need to improve the service conditions of junior officers and boost their morale. He stated that the Defense Ministry is striving for institutional improvements such as increased allowances and expanded recruitment for long-term service positions. He emphasized that efforts to enhance the pride and morale of junior officers are necessary.

<Ten defense policy achievements in the first year of government>
① Response to North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats
② Enhancement of US extended deterrence execution
③ Normalization and expansion of combined exercise and training
④ Establishment of soldiers’ anti-enemy awareness and strengthening spiritual combat power
⑤ Dramatic advancement of the ROK-US alliance
⑥ Strengthening Korea-Japan and Korea-US-Japan security cooperation
⑦ Strengthening global security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region
⑧ Implementation of Defense Innovation 4.0
⑨ Increasing compensation for sacrifices and devotion to the nation
⑩ Expanding defense industry exports

Subsequent meetings discussed the key defense policy initiatives, Defense Innovation 4.0 implementation, and transformation of the constitution to a strong combat-oriented military.

First, the meeting assessed that remarkable achievements were made in one year in response to North Korea's nuclear and missile threats. These achievements include laying the groundwork for South Korean-US extended deterrence through the establishment of the Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG), as well as making substantial progress in strengthening ROK 3K Defense. 

※Key achievements in response to North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats
Strengthening capabilities to counter the North’s nuclear and missile threats

• Strengthening ROK 3K Defense
• Accelerating preparation for the creation of the Strategic Command
• Normalizing the THAAD base in Seongju

Enhancing US extended deterrence execution
Washington Declaration

• Establishing the NGG, specializing in nuclear consultation
• Upgrade to mutual defense concept including nuclear deterrence
• Enhancing the effect of regular deployment of US strategic assets

Based on the achievements, they reached a consensus to accelerate efforts to build overwhelming capabilities and a posture to counter North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats. The efforts included budget formulation to establish ROK 3K Defense in a timely manner, strengthening extended deterrence execution through the creation and operation of the NCG, and vitalization of South Korea-US interagency tabletop exercises (TTX).

The discussion on Defense Innovation 4.0 emphasized the need for conceptual innovation in security operations, considering the future defense environment, which will see intensified challenges due to slumping recruiting. Additionally, in-depth discussions were held on the direction of developing a future security operation system driven by advanced technology. The participants also explored ways to implement a pilot security operational system in the second half of the year.

Meanwhile, a discussion on improving the service conditions of junior officers reached a consensus that junior officers are the cornerstone of combat unit strength and the core of building a combat-oriented strong military. The participants had the opportunity to hear from brigade commanders and battalion commanders of various combat units. 

In particular, the participants endorsed the Defense Ministry’s efforts to improve service conditions of junior officers, which included i) boosting the pride and morale of junior officers, ii) implementing system improvements, and iii) enhancing welfare improvements such as raising salaries. The discussions were enthusiastic.

Furthermore, the participants agreed that related government institutions such as the National Assembly, Ministry of Economy and Finance, and Ministry of Personnel Management, private organizations, and each military branch must collaborate and carry out improvement tasks more speedily to ensure that initiatives being performed by the Defense Ministry can penetrate to the lowest level immediately and effectively.

The participants also assessed the efforts of the Defense Ministry and headquarters of each military branch have made to reduce unnecessary tasks so that combat units can concentrate on ‘readiness to fight,’ and they decided to continue to make efforts in the second half of the year to actively explore and remove non-essential administrative tasks and formalities that distract from dedication to combat missions.

As for realistic education and training, officers responsible for education and commanders of combat units engaged in discussions on effective strategies to strengthen the mission capabilities of junior officers and soldiers in small units. The participants also explored ways to overcome factors that undermine intensive training within combat units.

Moreover, open-minded discussions were held regarding how upper-level units can provide support to ensure that combat units can engage solely in training without concerns. The participants also discussed areas where support for combat units is needed. They pledged to develop practical policies and systems and create an atmosphere where realistic and robust education and training are prioritized.
In a discussion on maximizing the spiritual combat power of ‘a must-win,’ participants reached a consensus that spiritual combat power education is key to strengthening the combat power of soldiers. They listened to combat units addressing their difficulties and explored ways in which the Defense Ministry could provide support to resolve these problems. Additionally, they discussed effective methods of spiritual combat power education at the unit level.

They reached a consensus to strengthen spiritual combat power education by commanding officers in the second half of the year by utilizing the fully revised basic textbook on spiritual combat power. The revised textbook includes expanded sections on anti-enemy awareness and soldiership. Moreover, they agreed to expand education on the realities of North Korea and the experience of security situations.

In his closing remarks, Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup expressed appreciation for the dedication and hard work of the commanders of each unit, soldiers, reservists, civilian employees and government employees. Addressing North Korea’s continuing provocations, he said, “The Defense Ministry and units at the lowest level should be faithful in fulfilling their roles. By extending the accomplishments made in the past 12 months, Korea should build a strong military that an enemy would not dare to attack, thereby realizing peace through strength.” 

During lunch that followed the meeting, Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup encouraged the commanders and defense officials who are actively working to strengthen the defense posture.


  • (Presentation and Follow-on discussion)