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Military Security Support Command
Defense Security Command

The launch ceremony of the Defense Security Support Command was held on 01 September 2018 at the headquarters of the intel command in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi-do Province. Speaking at the ceremony, Lieutenant General Nam Young-sin,.. the commander of the new intel body said all members of the command will try to win back the public's trust. "All members should do their best to clearly understand the scope of their missions, by discerning the things that have to be done, and the things that should never be done. By doing that, the command can regain public trust and recognition as a necessary, professional military body."

Defense minister Song Young-moo, in his address at the ceremony,.. stressed the new military intel body should deeply reflect on wrongdoings and commit itself to serving the country. "The authority given to the command should be used justly for the people, with a fear of the people in mind to serve them. Members need to shed their sense of entitlement, respect troops' human rights, and devote themselves to fulfill their duties of serving the country. That's the path of honor for yourselves and for the military."

The new command is under the direct control of the defense ministry. The new intel command will be operated by about 2,900 members, a roughly 30 percent decrease from its predecessor.

Members involved in the previous command's alleged illicit acts, including the illegal surveillance of civilians, the manipulation of online commentaries, and the drawing up of documents for the imposition of martial law, were removed from the new command structure. In order to prevent such illegal acts happening again, the command's ministerial ordinances state the members' obligation to stay politically neutral, the prohibition of monitoring civilians and the prohibition of abuses or misuses of authority. The ordinances also include clauses providing grounds for formal objections, regarding orders that go against those principles.

The scandal-ridden Defense Security Command was dissolved, and a new organization took its place, in the wake of a scandal over martial law contingency plans. The Defense Ministry announced 06 August 2018 the command set to succeed the Defense Security Command(DSC), will have a name which translates effectively as "military security support command" in English. The ministry also gave an advance legislation notice for enactment of a presidential decree to oversee operations of the new command.

Newly-appointed Commander Lieutenant General Nam Young-sin, will lead the 21-member team tasked with launching the command, including preparing a legal framework and other measures. The Defense Ministry said presidential decrees will ensure the new unit's political neutrality and prevent it from conducting investigations or surveillance of civilians. Its new inspector is to be either a high-ranking civilian worker in the military, a prosecutor, or a high-ranking government inspector.

During a weekly cabinet meeting on 14a ugust 2018, President Moon Jae-in stressed that the newly-created military intel command will never be misused for other purposes, such as illegal interference into domestic politics, and it will focus on its original mission of anti-espionage and security-related intelligence activities. "The fundamental purpose of disbanding the DSC and creating a new military intel command is to make sure that the new command could completely sever all its past history and never repeat past errors like political interference and civilian monitoring."

With the passage of the executive orders to set up the new military intel command at Tuesday's cabinet meeting, the new body, which will be officially launched on the first day of September, will have a new legal framework, which aims to institutionally prevent the intel unit from being misused by any future administrations.

"The new executive orders state the essential principles of its duties, such as the obligation of staying politically neutral, the prohibition of monitoring civilians, the prohibition of misuse and abuse of authority, and the ban on the infringement of human rights. The executive decrees also provide grounds for raising objections or rejecting orders that violate such duties."

The previous military intel command was disbanded after a series of confidential dossiers drawn up early in 2017 aiming at illegally interfering into domestic politics were released to the public. Independent investigations were underway on the intel unit's alleged interference in domestic politics, including monitoring civilians, and helping draw up a document for the imposition of martial law, in case protests turned violent following a court ruling on former president Park Geun-hye's impeachment. DSC The Defense Security Command had been under intense scrutiny since it was reveled the unit prepared plans for possibly imposing martial law in the event the Consitutional Court rejected the impeachment of ex-President Park Geun-hye. President Moon ordered it dissolved and reorganized. Following the DSC reform panel's recommendations, the number of the defense unit's personnel is set to be slashed by 30 percent to around three-thousand. All of the current DSC members will return to their original bases, including the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, during the disbandment process. Some of them are expected to be selected for the new command.

The Defense Ministry pushed for legislation that will ban the military’s political intervention. Under the plan, the law will enable military personnel to refuse political instructions by their bosses, including top commanders and the presidential office. Those caught giving such orders will also face severe punishments. The law will also likely come up with protection measures for those refusing political orders as well as rewards for the whistle-blowers of such cases. The planned legislation came amid suspicions that the Defense Security Command attempted to intervene in politics under the previous Park Geun-hye administration.

The DSC reviewed a plan to quell antigovernment candlelight protests early last year and conducted surveillance on the bereaved families of the victims of the Sewol ferry tragedy in 2014. The Defense Security Command prepared for a possible declaration of martial law during last year's anti-government candlelight protests. According to a military document Rep. Rhee Cheol-hee revealed in July 2018, the Army's counterintelligence investigative authority drafted the plan in case the protests against then-President Park Geun-hye escalated.

The controversial martial law plan was allegedly drawn up to deal with the fallout of then-President Park’s parliamentary impeachment being overturned, should the Constitutional Court have made that ruling. The military had predicted that the protests would have intensified if Park regained power. The DSC document also discussed the mobilization of nearly five-thousand armed soldiers, 14-hundred commandos and some 200 tanks against the candlelight protesters in the event of a martial law.

Defense Security Command (DSC) was originally founded as "Army Counter-Intelligence Corps" on October 21, 1950, and it worked as the forerunning anti-Communist force on shattering the attempts by the North Korean regime to disintegrate the Korean Military, as well as strengthening the military power and establishing an independent national defense. Ever since it changed its official title to Defense Security Command on 01 January 1991, in order to comply with the era of change and reform, it has been enforcing necessary changes for the command while maintaining its main objective of upkeeping military confidentiality and counterintelligence activities as a pure "military intelligence and investigation organization".

The DSC (and its predecessors) was created to deal with the real question of loyalty within a military on a divided peninsula. It was inspired by the Guomindang model, in which political officers monitored the military services for subversion or disloyalty. The DSC was responsible for monitoring the military for loyalty; safeguarding military information; monitoring domestic political, economic, and social activities that might jeopardize military capabilities and national unity; maintaining defense industrial security--both physically and in terms of counterespionage; countering North Korean infiltration; detecting espionage and anticommunist law violations; and conducting special investigations at the direction of the president.

It was Syngman Rhee, not the military, who initiated the political involvement of the military in intelligence activities. The turning point came in 1952 when Rhee proclaimed martial law-- and the presence of military police in the chamber of the National Assembly guaranteed passage of the constitutional amendment he sought over the objections of a recalcitrant legislative branch and still-independent judicial branch. Throughout Rhee's administration, two military units--the Joint Military Provost Marshal and the army Counterintelligence Corps (CIC)--engaged in extralegal and violent political tactics, apparently not excluding the outright murder of politically undesirable people. Although the details never were disclosed fully, more than a few minor political figures' disappearances were connected to the two units.

Under Park, the provost marshal's political role declined, while the CIC and its successor, the Army Security Command (ASC), concentrated on internal military security. The CIC/ASC, which was under Park's direct control, maintained strict surveillance over all high-ranking officers. It acted as a deterrent to wouldbe coup leaders. It tried, less successfully, to prevent the rise of disruptive factions within the military.

The Defense Security Command was formally activated in October 1977. This merger of the Army Security Command, the Navy Security Unit, and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations produced a single, integrated unit under the direct command and operational control of the minister of national defense. Although technically subordinate to the minister, the DSC commander operated semiautonomously and typically had personal, direct access to the president. Given the disparity in service size, the old ASC predominated within the DSC. The strength of the DSC varied over time within a probable range of 5,000 to 7,000 people during the 1980s.

The DSC assigned small elements to all major military units to monitor security and loyalty. These elements operated outside the unit's chain of command and performed a highly effective independent audit function. The DSC representatives never rivaled unit commanders as political officers occasionally had in communist military units. Their input into officer evaluations, however, often played a decisive role in career progression, giving DSC members influence far beyond their rank and producing friction between them and the "regular" military. Corruption within the DSC was difficult to verify, but political manipulations, misappropriation of operating funds, and undue influencing of promotions certainly occurred and were particularly rampant in the mid- to late 1970s.

For most of the Park regime, the ASC/DSC remained concerned primarily with internal military matters and was involved in the Yun P'il-yong incident in 1972 and removing the army chief of staff, General Yi Se-ho, in 1979 for corruption. Yun P'il-yong, head of the Capital Garrison Command, was court martialed, along with several close followers, on charges of bribery and corruption. His "real" offense, however, was creating a faction among the classes of the four-year graduates of the Korea Military Academy. Yun's faction did not disappear when he was purged. The group of young officers, who called themselves the "Hanahoe," (One Mind Society), had its origins in an alumni group, the Taegu Seven Stars, of seven young officers, including Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae Woo, from the first graduating class of the Academy (Class 11). The Hanahoe evolved into a group of some 200 members through ten graduating classes. In 1979 and 1980, Chun drew on the Hanahoe in his ascent to power. The irony of Park's death at the hands of his KCIA chief in 1979, however, was compounded by the rise to power of the commander of the DSC, then Major General Chun Doo Hwan, who used the military's anticoup apparatus to ensure the success of his own coup .

During and following Chun's rise to power, the DSC greatly expanded its charter into domestic politics and during the early 1980s was, perhaps, the dominant domestic intelligence service. The DSC was "credited" with masterminding the media reorganization of 1980 and with being the midwife for the first political parties of the Fifth Republic. Many former DSC members played prominent roles in Chun's administration and in the ruling Democratic Justice Party.

The end of the Fifth Republic brought the DSC under even more pressure than the ANSP to cut back on its domestic political activities. Both the DSC and the ANSP withdrew from the National Assembly at the same time in 1988. In October 1988, Minister of National Defense O Cha-bok reported to the National Assembly that the DSC would concentrate on counterespionage activities, preventing the spread of communism, conducting "relevant research," major restructuring, and would discontinue the investigation of civilians. Subsequently, the DSC eliminated the Office of Information that had been charged with collecting information on civilians, whose members had been active in local government offices. As a result of this move, 116 small detachments were disbanded, and the DSC announced plans to cut 860 personnel, or 14 percent of its 1990 strength. Additionally, the DSC curtailed its involvement in security screening of nonmilitary government personnel. An official of the DSC claimed that surveillance of politicians was turned over to "another agency." Given the historically broad interpretation of national security threats espoused by DSC personnel, however, many analysts doubted that the DSC had totally disengaged from domestic political surveillance. Despite the democratic trends of the late 1980s, intelligence and security agencies still were populated by individuals who were both institutionally and personally loyal to the president and ready to use any means at their disposal to support him.

DSC welcomes all reports and inquiries in order to search out North Korean spies who are threatening the national security and peace by engaging in secret maneuvers within our society, as well as pro-North leftists who, following the directions of the North Korean regime, infiltrate into the Korean military and try to obstruct operations. People to be reported include those:

  • Keeping in touch with someone who voluntarily has been to North Korea in the past
  • Unintentionally using peculiar North Korean words in speech, or secretly burying objects at well-marked places such as near cemetries and around big trees
  • Hiding walkie-talkies or firearms, wearing a Korean military uniform while bearing an M-16 rifle, or taking photographs of military facilities and airports
  • Propagandizing the ideology of the North Korean regime such as "juche" and instigating servicemen to form factions inside military

Each case is promptly handled on the scene by DSC's branches all around the nation. Swift arrests are possible since the troops are quickly put into operation upon the outbreak of each situation. As a special agency against spies and pro-North leftists, DSC makes sure to thoroughly verify the substance in order to reach a satisfying conclusion for each report, and the knowledgeable experts are available for helpful advice.

Additional areas of responsibility include:

  • Matters related to improving or impeding morale of soldiers and battle capability
  • Matters related to soldiers and troops who give good or bad impression to people
  • Matters related to reports about persons who have or let out military secrets
  • Matters related to reports for environmental preservation, such as discharging polluted water or illegally burying wastes from constructions and hospitals
  • Matters related to construction and placement of military facilities, such as reports about unlawfulness and unreasonableness of the overseeing managers in military construction work or illegal infringement of lands for military use
  • Matters related to munition supply, such as reports about bribery in connection with certain munition companies or illegal carry-out of goods for military use
  • Other kinds of matters related to military




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