Ahn wants Park Geun-hye named prime minister

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Ahn wants Park Geun-hye named prime minister

Newly elected Grand National Chairman Ahn Sang-soo said yesterday that he will propose President Lee Myung-bak appoint his political rival Park Geun-hye as prime minister in an upcoming reshuffle to bring harmony to the fractious conservative ruling party.

In an interview with Yonhap News Agency yesterday morning, Ahn reiterated his proposal that Park should be named the head of the cabinet and become a true partner of President Lee.

Park, former chairwoman of the Grand National Party and the daughter of the late former President Park Chung Hee, lost the GNP’s presidential primary in 2007 to Lee. Park is considered one of the strongest presidential contenders for the December 2012 election.

Ever since the 2007 race, the GNP has been split by a power struggle between pro-Lee and pro-Park groups. The fractiousness has hobbled the Lee administration’s agenda including the revision of the Sejong City development plan.

“For Park to work as the prime minister, she will be able to build up expertise in running the government,” Ahn said. “That will be the symbol of reconciliation.”

Ahn said the government and the GNP need a politician as prime minister to win the legislative and presidential elections in 2012. (Lee came from a business background, not politics.)

“There are several candidates, but I will tell Lee that Park will be the most desirable choice,” Ahn said, adding that he will soon pay a visit to her.

In a meeting with reporters later in the afternoon, Ahn continued to promote his proposal that more politicians - at least three - should be hired as ministers in Lee’s cabinet.

“I will soon pay a visit to Park and also meet with President Lee, so I will discuss my plan with the two and try to narrow differences and reconcile them,” Ahn said. “I will make sure that there will be no favoritism based on factions when appointing party officials. I will also make sure nomination processes will be reformed.”

Ahn’s proposal came ahead of a planned reshuffle of the cabinet in the aftermath of the party’s defeat in the June local elections. To improve the image and efficiency of his administration, Lee vowed overhauls of his cabinet and secretariat.

While no direct response came from Park about Ahn’s proposal, Representative Suh Byung-soo, a Park loyalist who was elected as a Supreme Council member Wednesday, was skeptical about the possibility.

“That’s an inappropriate and unfeasible proposal to make at this point,” Suh said in an interview with MBC.

“The priority is restoring trust between Lee and Park. Then the discussions on other issues may come, including the prime minister position.”

This is not the first time Park has been proposed as prime minister to mend the rift in the GNP.

Whenever Lee reshuffled his cabinet - in July 2008 in the aftermath of massive protests over his decision to resume U.S. beef imports and again in 2009 - politicians mentioned the possibility, but the plan was never realized, further deepening the rift.

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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