The South Korean defence ministry has announced that it is reorganizing its military cyber command in order restore public and politic trust following allegations that officers tried to interfere in the South Korean political process.
According to South Korean news agency Yonhap, the Ministry of Defence in Seoul will rename the command as Cyber Operations Command, and abolish the psychological warfare unit that resided in the commands and which is at the centre of Korean political controversy.
The reforms are part of the MoD’s Defense Reform 2.0 initiative and also include the introduction of a new military career path for cyber operations, to include appropriate training and education capacity and resources, in order to create a cadre of dedicated “elite cyberwarriors” and so secure with “absolute superiority” the cyberspace domain for maintaining South Korean sovereignty.
The command currently has 600 personnel and is responsible for securing South Korean cyberspace from attack, and when necessary, carry out offensive cyber operations. The command has not only been at the centre of a political scandal that saw some of its officers use the cyber capability to try and tip the electoral scales in favour of the conservative former government, but was also the victim of an embarrassing hack by North Korea in 2016.
“Safely protecting the cyberspace is a sovereign country’s core undertaking like the tasks of maintaining the exclusive rights to control its soil, sea and air,” the MoD said in a press release.
“Having set legality, effectiveness and flexibility as (the unit’s) core values, we have put forward a challenging vision to attain absolute superiority in defense cyberspace,” it added.
As part of the reforms, the MoD plans to designate the unit as an entity under the direct control of the South Korean Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), an organisational change that should enhance its military operational focus.
The new Cyber Operations Command will also strengthen cybersecurity training and education for its personnel, install an operations centre for enhanced cyberspace domain situational awareness, and set up a set of mission-specific divisions for intelligence collection and other cyber operations assignments.
Also under the measures, the MoD will undertake the role of managing the command’s administrative affairs, such as budgetary issues, while the JCS will take charge of operational plans to cope with evolving and dynamic cyber threats.