Military rule of South Korea was completed today in a sweeping reorganization that placed a committee loaded with generals at the top of the government and removed the last vestiges of civilian control.
The 24-member council, which will govern by martial law decree, was announced this morning in the guise of an "advisory committee" for President Choi Kyu Hah.
It includes Lt. Gen. Chon Doo Hwan, head of the powerful group of military leaders who seized total power here two weeks ago.
Chon moved into what is now the most powerful position in the country when he was named chairman of the new council's standing committee.
Sixteen of the main committee members are either current military leaders or former generals serving in Cabinet positions.
Choi, who has been relegated to the role of puppet president since the military takeover, announced he was appointing the committee "to cope with the state of national emergency." South Korea has been rocked in the past month by huge student protests against military rule and a rebellion in the city of Kwangju.
The "Special Committee for National Security Measures" is close to the version that was forecast here early this week, except that two additional civilian Cabinet members were added to give it more of an appearance of a civilian ruling body.
The announcement does not significantly change South Korea's balance of power, since military leaders had held total control since May 17. The new committee will merely formalize that reign.
A government spokesman described it as merely an "advisory committee" to the president and said it would not have decision-making powers. The announcement did not mention what will happen to the National Assembly, which has been closed by the military.
The effort to minimize the appearance of military domination may have been prompted by pressure from U.S. officials, who have objected to the authoritarian trend. But for the most part the military chiefs appear to have ignored the objections.
The council's civilian members are the prime minister, his deputy and Cabinet members. One presidential advisor, Kim Kyung Won, a holdover from the government of the late president Park Chung Hee, is included.
The list of generals includes the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, chiefs of the three services and the martial law commander.
Also included are about nine generals who rose to high ranks within the military as a result of the general's insurgency on Dec. 12. They are close friends of Chon who banded together to oust the military leadership that took control after Park's assassination in October.
Chon, who has emerged as the most powerful military leader, already is head of the Defense Security Command, which controls military surveillance, and is acting director of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency.
The smaller standing committee that he now heads is to make key day-to-day decisions for the 24-member council.
President Choi has made only limited appearances since the May 17, bloodless coup that was followed by the arrest of many political and dissident leaders.
In remarks prepared for delivery to the committee's first meeting this morning, Choi justified martial law control by citing student disorders and other signs of unrest.
He said there were people who "engaged in such speech and behavior as would abet social unrest and chaos."