SEOUL, South Korea will revamp its scandal-tainted cyber command to shore up public trust and secure "absolute superiority" in the increasingly crucial security domain, the defense ministry said Thursday.

As part of the Defense Reform 2.0 initiative aimed at creating a slimmer yet stronger military, the ministry unveiled its reform package, which includes renaming the unit the Cyber Operations Command and abolishing its psychological warfare function criticized for political interference.

The 600-strong command has been the focus of public censure due to the allegations that its agents staged an online campaign, such as posting political comments, to skew public opinion in favor of the former conservative governments.

"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 ministry 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.

Under the package, the ministry plans to designate the unit as an entity under the direct control of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) -- a move to enhance its military operational focus.

The unit will also strengthen cybersecurity training and education for its personnel, install an operations center for enhanced situational awareness, and set up a set of mission-specific divisions for intelligence collection and other assignments.

Also under the measures, the ministry will undertake the role of managing the command's administrative affairs, such as budgetary issues, with the JCS taking charge of operational plans to cope with evolving cyberthreats.

The ministry also plans to establish a new job specialty for cybersecurity experts in the command's recruitment process and build a training center for cyberwarfare to cultivate "elite cyberwarriors."

With many countries defining cyberspace as the "fifth battlefield" after land, sea, air and outer space, South Korea has also been pushing to bolster its cyberoperations capabilities, particularly in light of growing threats from North Korea.

Cyberattacks, which are hardly attributable, could cripple financial, traffic, aviation and electricity supply centers, broadcasting networks, communications channels and state governance structures that could spark social unrest and a serious security crisis.

Seoul's efforts to fend off such cyberattacks have faltered amid growing public distrust over its military's cyber operations, which critics argue have been abused as a tool to advance political interests of those in power.

Source: Yonhap News Agency