Incoming South Korean defence minister Kim Kwan-jin has promised a tougher response, including air strikes, if North Korea attacks again.
The retired general and former head of South Korea's joint chiefs of staff was responding to questions in parliament during his confirmation hearing.
He told the hearing that he would strengthen the military's rules of engagement, to give more power to the head of the military.
Kim Kwan-jin said he would also give more leeway to commanders in the field to determine the level of response to attacks.
The BBC reports he also criticised his predecessor, saying the military should not have ignored intelligence reports suggesting an attack from the North was likely.
North Korea shelled the island of Yeonpyeong on 23 November. Two marines and two civilians were killed.
Tensions have soared in the region since the bombardment. South Korea's spy chief has said another Northern attack was likely.