December 07, 2023

Transferring wartime OPCON to S. Korea: the key questions

In the event of a war with the North, should Seoul, or the U.S., call the shots?

A little noticed but quite significant outcome of the 29-30 June 2017 summit in Washington between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump was recently mentioned in an article by a South Korean newspaper. During the summit, Trump agreed to an early OPCON transfer whereby operational control of U.S. military forces in South Korea is transferred to Seoul during wartime.

The timing of the transfer has long been the subject of much discussion as well as numerous postponements, and had been scheduled for some time after 2020.  The delays have usually been at the request of Seoul, so as to give South Korea more time to prepare for the increased duties and responsibilities that such a transfer will involve. That shows good thinking – so far.