When incoming leader Park Geun-hye announced her plan last month to elevate the chief of Presidential Security Service one notch in the bureaucratic hierarchy, pundits worried about an excessive preoccupation with security possibly stemming from the traumatic memories of her assassinated parents.
Her appointment of Park Heung-ryul, a former Army chief of staff, to the office Friday further fanned the concern.
Some military retirees argue it is inappropriate for a former leader of some 500,000 troops to dedicate himself to the job of presidential security.
Some cautioned against a former military figure gaining too much power, which that could have negative political ramifications as seen in past military-backed governments. Under President-elect Park, the current vice ministerial post will be upgraded to a ministerial level.
With no personal ties to the president-elect, Park, 63, is believed to have been introduced to her through former Defense Minister Kim Jang-soo, who has been named to lead the national security office to be created in Cheong Wa Dae.
Kim was one year senior to Park while studying at the Korea Military Academy. While Kim served as Army chief of staff from 2005-2006, Park assisted Kim as vice Army chief.
During the presidential campaign last year, Park served as a member of the defense and security policy committee for the then Saenuri Party’s flag-bearer Park. The committee was headed by Kim.
Like Kim, Park had served in various top field and policy positions during his service of some four decades including the Army chief of staff from 2006-2008.
After Park was picked as the PSS chief, some critics cautioned that a former military figure could have negative political influence as seen in past cases.
Former general-turned-leaders such as Park Chung-hee hired military figures for top personal security posts. They were seen as kingpins who wielded inordinate political clout in many cases, observers noted.
In 1993, former President Kim Young-sam hired a civilian PSS chief, breaking the tradition of using figures from the military for the post. But he, later, used a former military commander as his security chief.
Former Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, and incumbent President Lee Myung-bak used both civilian and military figures for their PSS chiefs.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org