Under fire to replace chief of staff, Lee stands firm

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Under fire to replace chief of staff, Lee stands firm

Politicians have been looking for someone to blame in the aftermath of the disastrous nomination of Chung Tong-gi as chairman of the Board of Audit and Inspection.

Fingers have been pointed at Yim Tae-hee, President Lee Myung-bak’s chief of staff, saying Yim is responsible for the mess. Some are even demanding he be ousted from his post.

Lee, however, is standing by his man. And on Wednesday, he indicated there would be no change anytime soon at the Blue House.

“The advisers should not falter, but concentrate on their work,” the president’s spokesman, Hong Sang-pyo, quoted Lee as saying to Yim in the chief of staff’s office. This was after Yim said that much of the responsibility was on the staff officers.

One high-ranking official said that Lee’s decision to visit Yim was to let him know “not to waver.”

“When President Lee was Seoul’s mayor, I know he used to personally stop by the offices of those he felt needed some strength,” said the official.

As Lee made his support for the Blue House staff known, conservative politicians - who were demanding that the nominee verification system for high-ranking positions be investigated - have been quiet on the issue.

The ruling Grand National Party has also been mum.

“There has been some regret at the way in which the party’s will was delivered to the Blue House,” GNP chairman Ahn Sang-soo said yesterday during a meeting.

The GNP had denounced the Blue House’s decision to nominate Chung, saying he was “unfit” for the position. Ahn said communication between the GNP and the Blue House would be bolstered in the future.

Despite efforts by the ruling party and the Blue House to diffuse tensions, dissatisfaction toward the Blue House officials in charge of personnel still exists.

Some conservative party members have said that Ahn should not have buckled so soon under the Blue House’s disapproval over the GNP’s decision to abandon Chung.

The main opposition Democratic Party has been openly voicing its concern regarding position reshuffles, with floor leader Park Jie-won demanding Blue House officials leave their positions.

“The Blue House presidential secretariat has gotten candidate-verifying wrong every time and should take responsibility,” said Park during a meeting at the National Assembly yesterday. “Only when the Blue House chief of staff and his related officers leave their positions will the president and Korea succeed.”

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party has moved on to its next targets, Choi Joong-kyung, finance minister designate, and Choung Byoung-gug, culture minister-designate, with just a few days before confirmation hearings are scheduled to start on Jan. 17.

Floor leader Park said “one problem a day” would be disclosed to force the candidates to step down as nominees.

Choi’s wife is currently under fire by politicians for real estate speculation, while Choung has been questioned by Democratic Party representatives regarding his personal assets.

By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]
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