[EDITORIALS]Madame Prime Minister

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[EDITORIALS]Madame Prime Minister

President Kim Dae-jung made a dramatic move in nominating Ewha Womans University President Chang Sang as the new prime minister. The appointment of a woman to the post is a landmark move that reflects the changed status of women in our sociey and the ideal of improving it further. Ms. Chang is expected to meet little resistance in the National Assembly when it considers her nomination. She is also a refreshing choice to lead a cabinet as we head into a presidential election. The selection of a woman to the post is a new tradition that ought to be continued in the next administration.

But as groundbreaking as the move is, there are likely to be limitations and uncertainties. It is questionable how effective the appointment will be in putting the embattled adminstration back in order. A new prime minister, even a woman, will not be enough to quell the public's anger about the revolting deeds of the president's sons. And the five remaining months in this administration is not enough time for a person with no public service experience to stop public officials from taking sides in the election and to take control of the government administration.

There are also grounds for concern that the move means an expansion of power of the presidential staff led by Chief of Staff Park Jie-won. The head of government policy coordination in the prime minister's office was also replaced by a Blue House official close to Mr. Park. This does not look like an appointment designed to wrap up this adminstration and stay neutral in the upcoming election; indeed, it is enough to dampen the accolades for the appointment of the new prime minister.

The removal of Justice Minister Song Jeong-ho, who was reported to have resisted Blue House pressure for leniency in investigating one of the president's sons, is also unnerving. Mr. Song's replacement, Kim Jung-kil, returns to the post, and is said to have been appointed to check Prosecutor General Lee Myung-jae, who has been uncovering corruption everywhere he looks.

The cabinet changes fall short of creating a neutral cabinet as called for by the public and politicians. Lee Keun-sik continues as the minister of government administration and home affairs. Two people mentioned in the scandals centered on the president's second son, special presidential aide Lim Dong-won and the director of the National Intelligence Service, Shin Kuhn will stay in their position, which makes us wonder whether the Blue House is serious about actually changing the administration. Kim Dong-shin's removal as defense minister was appropriate and in line with the public sentiment that he was not able to distinguish national defense from the "sunshine policy."

The Chang Sang cabinet has been launched at the worst possible time for the administration. The success of the first woman prime minister will depend on how much independence the president will allow her in her new role and how hard the new cabinet tries to clear up corruption and stay neutral.
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