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Moon to replace chief of staff with ambassador to China

Jan 09,2019
President Moon Jae-in is expected to replace his chief of staff and two senior secretaries on Tuesday afternoon in a major Blue House reshuffle that comes amid dour economic prospects, two whistle-blowing scandals and record-low approval ratings.

According to Blue House officials, Moon has nominated Korean Ambassador to China Noh Young-min as his new chief of staff; former Democratic Party Rep. Kang Gi-jung as senior secretary for political affairs; and Yoon Do-han, a former political commentator from local broadcaster MBC, for his senior secretary for public affairs.

Noh will replace Im Jong-seok and Kang will succeed Han Byung-do. Yoon will take over from Yoon Young-chan. The outgoing trio has yet to elaborate on their future plans, but Im is expected to run for a seat in the National Assembly in the 2020 general election.

Noh and Kang are known to have very close ties with Moon. According to multiple sources in the National Assembly and Blue House, Moon has long wanted Noh as chief of staff, apparently since he took office in May 2017 through a snap election after former President Park Geun-hye was impeached for corruption. Moon eventually chose another candidate after those who worked closely with him in the presidential campaign urged him to choose a "new face" in a show of reform. Moon eventually went with Im, a close aide of Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, who served as Seoul's vice mayor for political and state affairs.

At the time Moon was mulling over who to pick for chief of staff, Noh won the backing of loyalists to President Roh Moo-hyun, who served from 2003 to 2008 before leaping to his death on May 23, 2009 during a corruption probe from the right-wing Lee Myung-bak administration. Moon sees Roh as his political mentor.

A source in the ruling Democratic Party said Moon eventually chose to side with the supporters from the 2017 presidential campaign, who pushed for Im, because he needed to justify his pledge to root out jeokye, or "deep-rooted evils," from Korean society.

Another reason why Moon chose Im, according to the Democratic Party source, was because he wasn't affiliated to any particular faction within the liberal party, though he had experience as a lawmaker, which would mean less of a power-struggle between the ruling party and the Blue House.

BY KANG TAE-HWA, LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]




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