Go to contents

THE DONG-A ILBO Logo

Controversy over preference of German army graduates

Posted October. 19, 2017 07:57,   

Updated October. 19, 2017 08:32

한국어

The Prussian army is referred to as the prototype of the modern army. As the French army under the command of Napoleon swept across Europe, Prussia felt a great sense of crisis. In an effort to reform a military system, it introduced a mandatory military service in which commoners participate in the conventional aristocratic army while establishing the logistics-oriented chiefs of staff, which resulted in the accomplishment of the German unification. Meanwhile, the Japanese army, which had benchmarked France after the Meiji Restoration, saw the great victory of Prussia in the Franco-Prussian War and quickly reorganized into a German-style army.

The foreign military academy, where Korean Military Academy students were first dispatched, was German military academy. The commissioned education program was a gift from Germany for former President Park Chung-hee’s visit to West Germany in 1964. Thanks to military aid from West Germany, two military academy students (Korea Military Academy 24th graduating class) went study abroad in the following year. Since then as many as 50 cadets have been trained in Germany and produced two defense ministers, four-star Gen. Kim Tae-young and Kim Kwan-jin. They also played a role in spreading the best German military strategies and tactics to the Korean army including the concept of “mission command” that ensures the autonomy of the field commander and “internal command” that establishes the principle of free democracy and rule of law.

The contents of a report to the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae by the Korean Defense Security Command on accusing then-Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin of preferentially hiring his German army juniors were released in August 2013 during the Park Geun-hye administration. The report says the German army graduates were promoted or appointed to key post even if they were not competent enough. It also takes an example that among seven German military graduates from 35th to 42nd graduating class of Korea Military Academy, except for professors and military officers, five were promoted by one or two ranks. It will certainly include four-star Gen. Park Chan-ju (37th graduating class) who was recently charged with bribery after a controversial scandal where he and his wife had been accused of treating conscripts like slaves.

The aftermath of the Command’s direct report to Cheong Wa Dae was immediate in reshuffling of the military officials in October 2013, where the Defense Security Commander and the first, second and third positions of the Command were all replaced. Since the controversy over the preference of the German army graduates began, the existence of a private group or faction that controls the military personnel has become the topic of gossip. However, I doubt there is such a group. People may be too jealous of and slandering those talented officers who have seized opportunities to study abroad.