Kim Jang-soo, named to be incoming leader Park Geun-hye’s top presidential security adviser, became known as the “high-headed” general after he did not bow his head to late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in October 2007.
The then defense minister was accompanying former liberal President Roh Moo-hyun for a second inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang
Unlike other South Korean ministers, including the intelligence chief, he maintained an upright position while shaking hands with the strongman. As top military leader, he could not bend his body to the head of the main national enemy, he later said, and shortly became considered by conservative politicians and pundits as the most trustworthy security official.
Kim is to head the next government’s security control tower based on his four decades of military experience, policy expertise and strong resolve to fend off security threats.
Before announcing other top nominees, Park on Friday unveiled her pick for the chief of the national security office to be created inside Cheong Wa Dae.
Kim’s first priority would be handling a brewing crisis over North Korea’s apparently impending third nuclear test.
“(I) will respond to the threat of the nuclear test in close consultation with the incumbent government and do my utmost to enable the national security office to serve its purpose well,” he told reporters.
Currently representing the presidential transition team’s subpanel on foreign affairs, defense and unification, Kim, 64, had been mentioned as a candidate for the post covering a wide range of security and diplomatic issues including crisis management.
His appointment does not require parliamentary approval.
For the four decades before retiring as chief of the Army in 2006, he served in various top field and policy positions in the Army, South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command, Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Ministry.
But critics expressed concern that he might handle security issues mostly from a military standpoint as he has little experience in diplomacy.
Kim’s relationship with Park began after he was elected in April 2008 a lawmaker of the Grand National Party, the precursor to the ruling Saenuri Party. He stepped into politics right after he served as defense minister from 2006-2008 during the liberal Roh Moo-hyun administration.
Since 2008, Kim has advised Park on defense issues including budget allocations, defense reform and the retaking of wartime operational control on many occasions, sources said.
Last June, Park invited Kim to join her presidential primary campaign as a policy committee member. Joining the transition team, Kim has spearheaded the team’s work watching and responding to developments of Pyongyang’s possible atomic test.
With Kim designated to lead the office, its formation is expected to pick up speed. Observers said the office could consist of three to four divisions in charge of policy coordination, strategic planning, intelligence collection and crisis management.
Some experts said that the new office could have functions similar to the National Security Council former President Roh ran in the presidential complex.
It had a policy coordination division in charge of coordinating between diplomatic, security-related government agencies; a division compiling intelligence from the National Security Service, Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry and Unification Ministry; a strategic planning division in charge of mid- and long-term national security visions; and a crisis management team to deal with massive natural or man-made disasters.
By Song Sang-ho (email@example.com