Lee expected to replace key aides before by-electionA top-level reshuffle is reportedly in the works at the Blue House in the face of mounting criticism about high-handedness by top presidential aides.
President Lee Myung-bak is expected to hurry to replace key secretaries ahead of next month’s legislative by-elections to restore the ruling party’s plummeting popularity.
Lee will address the nation this morning to unveil his response to the election fallout and the direction of key policies for the rest of his term, the Blue House said in a press release yesterday.
“Lee will map out the direction and plans to improve the governance system and explain his ideas about reshuffles within the ruling party, cabinet and the Blue House in this address,” the press release said. “The president will also make public his position about key state projects, including the revision of the Sejong City development blueprint and the four major rivers restoration program.”
The speech is scheduled to be aired live at 8 a.m. by major TV and radio networks, Blue House officials said.
The presidential address is expected to be Lee’s first public reaction to the ruling party’s defeat in the June 2 local elections, and the growing demands for changes at the top. Lee has faced severe pressure to fire his presidential secretaries and cabinet members for their “arrogant and overbearing governance.”
While the opposition parties vowed to stop Lee’s signature projects, young, reformist Grand National lawmakers angrily demanded that top presidential aides be sacked for failing to assist Lee properly. On Thursday, 51 first-term GNP lawmakers signed an appeal to the president.
A post-election assessment poll has shown that more than half of the voters said the Lee administration is to blame for the GNP’s defeat. A significant number of respondents also said they wanted to judge the administration’s high-handed approach to pushing key projects, including revising the Sejong City plan and four major rivers restoration projects.
While some presidential aides had said that Lee would wait until after the July 28 legislative by-elections to name new aides, there were increasing signs that the reshuffle will take place sooner than later. “Preparations are ongoing to reshuffle the secretariat, and the change will be announced at an appropriate time,” a senior Blue House official said Friday.
Another top presidential aide confirmed that Lee will move up the Blue House overhaul. “As soon as he is ready, Lee will reshuffle the secretariat even before the July 28 legislative by-elections,” the aide said. “But the president will take more time to reshuffle the cabinet. All the senior secretaries are ready to take responsibility. None of them are clinging to the posts.”
Presidential Chief of Staff Chung Chung-kil expressed his intention to resign on June 3, but none of the senior secretaries followed suit, angering the ruling party. Another senior Blue House official said Friday that the president will act swiftly.
The change comes amid growing media reports about a bloody and embarrassing feud between Lee’s party and his secretariat. Lee has remained tight-lipped about how he will handle the election fallout even as the power struggle grew more serious.
The controversy caught Prime Minister Chung Un-chan in the line of fire last week. Major daily newspapers reported Thursday that Chung asked to meet alone with the president to propose a major reshuffle on Wednesday, but was blocked by Lee’s secretaries. As the news spread, Chung’s office issued a short denial. “Some media reports about what’s on the prime minister’s mind were inaccurate,” the office said, adding that the country is in a crisis and the cabinet and civil servants must unite to manage the state affairs.
By Ser Myo-ja, Seo Seung-wook [email@example.com]