Impact Player: Song Young-moo
June 22, 2017
Who is he?
On Sunday, June 11, 2017, President Moon Jae-in nominated Song Young-moo to be the new minister of the Ministry of National Defense. He officially took office on Friday, July 14, 2017. Song Young-moo is a retired navy admiral, who most recently was Chair Professor of the Military and Police College at Konyang University, since 2013. Song was President Moon Jae-in’s top security adviser on defense issues during his 2017 presidential campaign, reprising his role in Moon’s 2012 presidential campaign.
Song has had an extensive career in the military with more than two decades of service. He was a Policy Advisor for the Rights of Military Personnel for the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (2012-2016). He also served as the 26th Chief of Naval Operations for the Republic of Korea Navy under former President Roh Moo-hyun, from November 2006 to March 2008. Under the Roh administration, Song was involved in establishing the “Defense Reform Plan 2020” (DRP 2020), initiated in 2005. The reform was aimed at transforming the South Korean military into a smaller but more modernized force, securing a long-term defense budget, and maintaining the strength of the ROK-U.S. alliance within the framework of a cooperative, self-reliant security policy, with Seoul assuming a greater initiative in wartime operational control (OPCON).
Before serving as the Chief of Naval Operations, Song was Chief Director of Strategic Planning for the Joint Chiefs of Staff (J-5) (2005-2006) and Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, Planning and Management for the ROK Navy HQ (N-5) (2003-2004). He was also Commander of the Naval Sea Systems Command, ROK Navy HQ (2002-2003), and Commander of the ROK Navy 1st fleet (2000-2002). During the First Battle of Yeonpyeong, a naval skirmish with North Korean forces near Yeonpyeong Island on June 15, 1999, Song was Commander of Battle Group Two from the ROK Navy 2nd fleet (1999-2000).
Song graduated with the 27th class of the Korea Naval Academy (1973). He received his MBA from Kyungnam University (1984) and also completed the National Security Course from the Korea National Defense University (1997).
Why has he been in the news?
Song Young-moo was nominated by president Moon Jae-in to be the new Minister of National Defense on Sunday, June 11, 2017. Despite some controversy in the appointment process, President Moon Jae-in pressed ahead with Song’s appointment on Thursday, July 13, 2017. President Moon was quoted stating “we can no longer delay the appointment of the defense minister to ensure unwavering national security amid the grave situation both at home and abroad”. Song officially took office on Friday, July 14, 2017.
Song comes into office amidst an increasing trend in the frequency and intensity of North Korean provocations, the most recent threat being North Korea’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile test on Tuesday, July 4, 2017. Song also faces difficulties over the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea.
What can we expect from him?
Song is expected to play an instrumental role in shaping South Korea’s response to North Korean provocations in line with Moon Jae-in’s dual-track policy towards the North, which calls for dialogue with Pyongyang while maintaining pressure through sanctions. Additionally, given his experience in strategy and reform under the Roh Moo-hyun administration, media reports assess that his nomination reflects president Moon Jae-in’s resolve to fulfil one of his campaign pledges of reforming the military. Indeed, in Song’s inauguration speech, he was quoted stating “In order to win the trust of the people, (the military) should go beyond a simple defense reform to create brand new armed forces”. He may also play a role in future discussions between the U.S. and South Korea on issues related to the transfer of wartime operation control.Photo credit: Cheong Wa Dae/Republic of Korea