The Minister of National Defense said on May 17 that the government's military reform plan can be achieved if active-duty and retired officers become one.
The Defense Ministry invited retired Army, Navy and Air Force generals to the ministry to brief them on the government's defense reform amid backlash from some retired generals.
The reform measures, unveiled by the Defense Minister Kim in March in response to North Korea's two deadly attacks last year, call for the military to streamline its top command structure and give more power to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to enhance the interoperability of the Army, Navy and Air Force.
Some retired generals have publicly voiced opposition to the reform measures, claiming that the moves could weaken the commanding authority of chiefs of Navy and Air Force. Four-star Army generals, traditionally, have assumed the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The brief session on the defense reform was organized to explain the outline of reform measures under the 'Defense Reform Basic Plan 2011~2030' and collect opinions from retired generals.
"Until the last moment of completing the reform plan, we will keep on making opportunities to listen opinions from retired generals," said Kim.
The minister also said that it is very important to listen all different opinions on the military reform matter from retired generals since the defense issue is crucial in national security and it needs to be dealt in perfect fashion. Kim said the ministry plans to hold a large-scale debate session on the defense reform in early next month.
"We will do our best to collect as many views toward the reform plan as possible throughout the process of the plan," Kim said.
Also in his briefing, Kim emphasized that the defense reform is aimed at changing the military into a stronger and combat-oriented organization before the transfer of the wartime operational control from the United States to Korea scheduled in 2015.
"We are pushing ahead with the military reform for the sake of the future of our armed forces and the country," said Kim. "Military reforms come up at the request of the people, so we need to thoroughly implement the reforms to make the military stronger, speedier and slimmer. We urge you to keep on encouraging and supporting the military's effort on the plan."
Some 140 retired general-grade officers attended the briefing session, but former four-star generals of the Navy and Air Force did not show up in the session, in an apparent show of opposition. Only former Chief of Naval Operations Kim Jong-ho attended as a representative of the Korea Retired Generals and Admirals Association.
"Active-duty and retired officers should not show divisions," said Kim Jong-ho. "The ministry needs to show its effort to listen opinions of the minority as well."
Park Se-hwan, chairman of the Korea Veterans Association, said, "Since 2012 can be a year with security concern, we need to be well-prepared. Along with the reform plan, preparation of the wartime operational control transition must be conducted well."
Ret. Army Lt. Gen. Kim Chung-bae said, "It is regrettable that the comments of certain retired generals are seen as the selfishness of their own group."
A defense official at the ministry said that the most of attendants at the session understood ministry's briefing on the reform plan well and showed reaction that many doubts have been resolved.
"The ministry will do its best to draw many retired Navy and Air Force general-grade officers to attend a scheduled brief session next month," the official said. "Even after completing three briefing sessions, we are planning to explain the reform measures through various channels and listen to different opinions from the retired generals."