South Korea's Wartime Operational Control Transfer Debate: The Military and the Presidents : 한국의 전시작전통제권 전환 논의: 조직적 관점에서 본 군과 대통령

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국제대학원 국제학과
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서울대학교 국제대학원
wartime operational controlmilitary organizationdecision-makingpresidentcivil-military relationsleadership
학위논문 (박사)-- 서울대학교 국제대학원 : 국제학과, 2016. 8. 신성호.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyuns suggestion to transfer the wartime Operational Control (OPCON) caused a heated debate. The senior military elites gathered to strongly oppose the decision. Despite such resistance, President Roh Moo-hyun and U.S. President George W. Bush agreed to have the transfer done by April 17, 2012, but the plan was delayed when the next President Lee Myung-bak came into office, and again delayed when the succeeding President Park Geun-hye administration started. Cheonan warship attack and the 3rd nuclear tests were the major reasons for such delay.
Why was the nation-to-nation agreement delayed not only once, but twice? More specifically, why have the senior military elites demonstrated such unbending opposition? Also, why were the Presidents not able to override the senior military elites opposition?

To answer these questions, this research introduces a balanced and theoretical perspective that combines organizational studies, decision-making, psychology and security studies. Also, in-depth interviews were conducted to accurately examine the military and presidents decision-making. Among 33 interviews, 23 interviews were with senior military elites, and 10 were with policy advisors and security experts.

For a large, bureaucratic, and unique organization like the military that has a special mission to win in wars, change is difficult. Interview results show that North Korean nuke, concerns over ROK-US alliance, cost, and inter- service rivalries were the reasons for the militarys opposition to the transfer. Status quo bias and risk adverse tendencies were detected as well.
For the presidents decision-making, three roles of the president were examined. Being the Commander-in-Chief, Executive Head, and a Political Leader, the presidents not only had to deal with the severe opposition from the senior military elites and conservative groups, but also had to consider defense budget, North Korean provocations, and the general publics attitude towards the wartime OPCON transfer matter. Such complexity makes it difficult for the presidents to override the militarys opposition.

In conclusion, for a short-term period, both the military decision-makers and the presidents are unlikely to push the wartime OPCON transfer. This gives implications for the Korean civil-military relations. For a divided country, still technically at war, like Korea, the military with its expertise knowledge holds an important role in making changes to defense posture. It also provides implications to the leadership and political will of the president and military.
Keywords: Wartime Operational Control, Military Organization, Decision- Making, President, Civil-Military Relations, Leadership.
Student ID: 2009-31173
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Graduate School of International Studies (국제대학원)Dept. of International Studies (국제학과)Theses (Ph.D. / Sc.D._국제학과)
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