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Kim Dumps 12 Ministers

Broad Shakeup Seen Giving Him a Stronger Hand

Mar 26,2001
President Kim Dae-jung appointed his close aide and top North Korean envoy, Lim Dong-won, director-general of National Intelligence Service, as the new unification minister in a reshuffle on Monday that was wider in scope and came earlier than expected.

Mr. Kim replaced 12 cabinet and cabinet-rank members, as well as two senior Blue House secretaries in a reshuffle reflecting his will to steer with a strong hand in the second half of his five-year tenure.

To replace the senior secretaries, Mr. Kim brought back Park Jie-won, 59, as senior secretary for policy and planning and named Lee Tae-bog, 51, publisher of Korea Daily Labor News, as senior secretary for welfare and labor.

Mr. Lim, 67, will be serving a second term as Unification Minister, while Mr. Park's appointment is a political comeback for the former culture and tourism minister who had to resign eight months ago over rumors of involvement in an illegal loan deal.

Both men, however, are among Mr. Kim's closest insiders, who have played crucial roles in the president's North Korean policy. Mr. Park brokered last June's summit between Mr. Kim and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Mr. Lim was the only South Korean official to go in with the president to face-to face talks with North Korean leader. He will be replaced as director-general of national intelligence by Shin Kuhn.

The president tapped Han Seung-soo, 65, former ambassador to the United States, to replace Lee Joung-binn as new foreign affairs and trade minister. He named Kim Dong-shin, 60, Army chief of staff, new defense minister to replace Cho Seong-tae.

In a move to consolidate the ruling coalition with the United Liberal Democrats, Mr. Kim named Reps. Chang Che-shik, 66, Oh Jang-seop, 54, and Chung Woo-taik, 48, to head the Ministries of Commerce, Industry and Energy; Construction and Trade, and Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. They replace Shin Kook-hwan, Kim Yoon-ki and Noh Mu-hyun. He retained two more United Liberal Democrats, Prime Minister Lee Han-dong and Han Kap-soo of Agriculture and Forestry.

The president tapped Lee Keun-sik, 55, as minister of government administration and home affairs; ruling party spokesman Kim Young-hwan, 46, as minister of science and technology, and Yang Seung-taik, 62, as minister of information and communication. They replace Choi In-ki, Seo Jung-uck and Ahn Byong-yub.

Kim Deok-bae, 47, of the ruling party, is the new chairman of the presidential commission on small and medium enterprises, and Na Seung-po, 59, is the new head of the office for government policy coordination. Both positions are minister-level positions.

Presidential spokes-man Park Joon-young said that ability and expertise were the main criteria in the appointments. Political observers, however, noted that the reshuffle furthers the "strong government" advocated by Mr. Kim to offset his lame-duck status. Mr. Kim faces the challenges of seeing through economic and social reforms, and advancing Korean peace efforts through a second summit in Seoul with North Korea's leader.

More ambitiously, he would like to determine the winner of the 2002 presidential election. He has chosen a loose coalition including his own Millennium Democratic Party, the United Liberal Democrats and a third party, the Democratic People's Party. The appointment of Rep. Han Seung-soo, in addition to bringing an expert on the United States into the foreign affairs team, is a step toward fashioning a broader coalition. Mr. Han is one of the Democratic People's Party's two representatives in the current National Assembly.

The United Liberal Democrats on Monday welcomed its new prominence in Mr. Kim's cabinet. "We can now say that we are in the same boat," a party official said. The three parties together hold 137 seats, a bare majority, in the 273-seat National Assembly. The opposition Grand National Party is the largest bloc, with 133 seats.

by Kim Ji-soo




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