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SEOUL, Dec. 4 (KATAKAMI / Yonhap) — Kim Kwan-jin, former head of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, was named the country’s new minister of defense on Saturday.
Cheong Wa Dae formally appointed the retired four-star Army general as the country’s new defense chief, after Kim went through a confirmation hearing Friday.
Kim, 61, replaces Kim Tae-young, who came under fire over the military’s allegedly inadequate and late response to North Korea’s deadly shelling of South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island near the tense Yellow Sea border on Nov. 23.
During his hearing, Kim Kwan-jin vowed to respond with air strikes in case of additional North Koran provocations.
The attack on Yeonpyeong killed two South Korean marines and two civilians, while forcing residents to evacuate their homes. It was the first North Korean strike on a South Korean civilian area since the 1950-53 Korean War.
The two countries remain technically at war since the Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.
In his inauguration speech, Kim said if North Korea attacks South Korean territory and its civilians again, then the South should quickly and powerfully respond with force “until they (North Koreans) surrender.”
“We do not want war, but we must never be afraid of it,” he said. “We’re in the worst crisis since the Korean War. Our enemies will keep trying to take advantage of our weaknesses and will plot new provocations. We must make them realize how steep of a price they will have to pay for their provocations on us.”
Kim is scheduled to visit Yeonpyeong Island later Saturday, his first trip there as the defense minister. (*)