By: Yi Whan-woo

Retired Army Gen. Paik Sun-yup has received an honorary doctorate in military science from Korea National Defense University (KNDU).

The university said it awarded the degree to Paik, 94, Tuesday, in recognition of “his devotion to defend the country” during the 1950-53 Korean War when he served as South Korea’s youngest Army chief of staff.

KNDU, which is affiliated with the Ministry of National Defense, also said it valued his contribution to “build a powerful armed forces” after the armistice that ended the war on July 27, 1953.

This is the first time KNDU has given an honorary doctorate in military science. It offers graduate school courses on national security for active military officers and carries out research on military strategies.

“I must say I owe it to those unknown soldiers who sacrificed their lives during the Korean War for me to have this honor,” Paik said

Born in South Pyeongan Province, now part of North Korea, in November 1920, Paik has been one of South Korea’s most decorated military officers, both retired and active.

He led the Army’s 1st Infantry Division when the war broke out on June 25, 1950 and his unit was first to enter Pyongyang on Oct. 19 of the same year.

Paik was promoted to major general in April 1951 and then to lieutenant general in January 1952 when commanding the Army’s 1st Corps. His troops demolished red guerillas hiding at Mount Jiri in the south of the Korean Peninsula by March 1952.

He briefly took command of the Army’s 2nd Corps that was created in April 1952.

In July 1952, he was named the country’s youngest Army chief of staff at age 32 before becoming a four-star general in January 1953. He served the post until February 1954.

He was re-named Army chief of staff in 1957 and also served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). He retired from the military in May 1960.

KNDU said it invited some 500 guests, including Eighth U.S. Army Commander Lt. Gen. Bernard Champoux, to the award ceremony for Paik.

The graduates of KNDU include a number of retired officials, including 14 defense ministers, eight vice defense ministers and 12 JCS chairmen.

Some 200 active general officers are also currently enrolled at KNDU.