Park vows mass shuffle at first cabinet meeting

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Park vows mass shuffle at first cabinet meeting


President Park Geun-hye, center, bangs the gavel yesterday to begin the first cabinet meeting since her presidential inauguration at the Blue House. [Joint Press Corps]

President Park Geun-hye yesterday vowed to normalize state affairs by operating a strong and powerful government, foreshadowing a massive reshuffle in the public institutions.

Ending two weeks of administrative vacuum, Park formally appointed 13 ministers and hosted her first cabinet meeting. Because her government restructuring plan is still pending at the National Assembly, Park appointed the ministers under the titles used by the administration of her predecessor Lee Myung-bak.

Later in the afternoon, Park hosted her first cabinet meeting with the new ministers. Prime Minister Chung Hong-won and Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon also joined the meeting with the 13 new ministers.

In her opening address, Park gave a notice that the heads of the public institutions appointed by her predecessor will be replaced en masse.

“For the new government to succeed in important tasks, personnel appointment is important,” Park told her ministers. “There will be many appointments in the agencies under the ministries and public institutions in the future. You should look to appoint the people who can share the governance philosophy of the new administration.”

While a significant number of officials heading the public institutions still have months left in their tenure, some of them, including the head of the National Pension Service and the Incheon International Airport Corporation, resigned before Park’s inauguration to allow her to appoint new faces.

The names of all 40 presidential secretaries will be announced today, said Kim Haing, presidential spokeswoman, whereas vice ministers will be reshuffled tomorrow. On Thursday, the heads of other government agencies will be announced.

At the cabinet meeting, Park also stressed her determination to follow through with her welfare pledges. “To secure the financial resources, we must root out the widespread practice of tax evasion from our society by legitimizing the underground economy,” Park said.

She also made clear her intention to go after various attempts to manipulate the stock market, ordering the government to lay bare the sources of the funds, the profiteers and their methods.

Park also ordered to thoroughly investigate the alleged budget waste for the four-rivers restoration project, a signature program of the Lee administration in which the government spent 22.2 trillion won ($20.2 billion) over the past four years.

Park’s land minister and environment minister, after they were nominated, promised to look into the project.

The main opposition Democratic United Party has also demanded the National Assembly look into the project, and the ruling Saenuri Party is likely to accept it as Park addressed the issue yesterday.

During the cabinet meeting, Park again blamed the politicians, particularly the DUP, for the delayed formation of her cabinet and urged them to quickly approve her government restructuring plan.

To meet the quorum of the cabinet meeting yesterday, two vice ministers - Shin Je-yoon of the Ministry of Strategy and Finance and Lee Yong-gul of the Ministry of National Defense- joined in the absences of their bosses.

According to Park’s spokesman, Yoon Chang-jung, she gave specific instructions to each ministry at the cabinet meeting.

Yoon also said the cabinet meeting will routinely take place every Tuesday morning from now on, and the president and the prime minister will take turns hosting it.

Park has proposed to operate her government with 17 ministries by creating the Ministry of Future Planning and Science and reviving the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. She can appoint the ministers for the two posts only after the government restructuring bills are passed by the legislature.

“Fifteen days have passed since the launch of the new government, and we can only open the first cabinet meeting today,” Park said yesterday at the meeting.

“North Korea is renewing war threats every day, but the head of the National Security Council, the control tower of the national security policy and the defense minister posts are still vacant, and the National Intelligence Service is still paralyzed. The global economy is also in crisis, but we don’t have the deputy economic prime minister, the control tower of the economy. I express my apologies to the people.”

Park then further pressured the DUP. “For the sake of the country and the people, pass the government restructuring bills as soon as possible,” she said.

Hyun Oh-seok, Park’s nominee to become deputy prime minister for economy and minister for strategy and finance, will face the confirmation hearing tomorrow, while the legislature remained split over approving Kim Byung-kwan as defense minister.

Park is still expected to appoint Kim to head the Ministry of National Defense because the legislature’s approval is not binding.

By Ser Myo-ja, Park Sung-tae []
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