Park running out of time for cabinet picks

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Park running out of time for cabinet picks

Top posts in the cabinet and secretariat of incoming President Park Geun-hye remained empty as of yesterday although one month has passed since her transition team started work.

Park’s timetable to build a cabinet and Blue House was disturbed significantly by her botched nomination of transition committee head Kim Yong-joon as her prime minister. After the media and lawmakers questioned Kim’s sons’ real estate and their failure to do military service, he withdrew his nomination. She now has only three weeks until the Feb. 25 inauguration. No sign of a major announcement was seen as of yesterday.

“I don’t see any movement,” Yoon Chang-jung, spokesman for the presidential transition committee, said in the morning.

The ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic United Party have agreed to vote on a prime ministerial nomination on Feb. 26.

After Park makes public her second nominee, confirmation hearings will take place before the vote. Under current law, Park needs to submit a request to the legislature to confirm her prime minister by Wednesday since the statutory confirmation hearing period for the position is 20 days.

In the past, it took about one month for the president-elect’s first prime minister nominee to be approved by the National Assembly through confirmation hearings.

In 2002, President-elect Roh Moo-hyun named Goh Kun to become his first prime minister on Jan. 22 and the National Assembly approved the appointment on Feb. 26. In 2007, President-elect Lee Myung-bak nominated Han Seung-soo as his first prime minister on Jan. 28 and it was approved by the legislature on Feb. 29.

In addition to the prime minister, Park also needs to field nominations for 17 ministries, all of whom will require confirmation hearings. Although she will pick the ministers, the law requires the nominees to be recommended formally by the prime minister, so Park has to nominate another prime minister candidate quickly.

Speculation is also high that Park would announce the chief of staff and secretaries for the Blue House before making nominations for the cabinet. Park has the power to appoint her aides at the Blue House without lawmakers’ say.

Analysts said Park will likely choose confidants and political allies for the Blue House because they can chip in on the vetting of nominees for the cabinet.

The ruling and opposition parties will open the February session of the Assembly today and discuss Park’s proposal to restructure the government. A package of 37 bills will be reviewed, but it remains unclear if Park’s proposed changes will be accepted by the DUP.

“What must be changed will be changed, what should be modified will be modified and what gets approved will be approved,” said Representative Park Ki-choon, the DUP floor leader. “That’s our position.”

The ruling and opposition parties agreed to vote on the government restructuring bills on Feb. 14. If the changes are not approved, that will also put a serious damper on Park’s creation of her cabinet.

Standing committees will review Park’s proposals this week.

Not all proposed restructurings of the president-elect are realized. Five years ago, President-elect Lee attempted to scrap the Ministry of Gender Equality and the Ministry of Unification, but the plan was rejected by the legislature.



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

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