Park names heads of key agencies

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Park names heads of key agencies

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Chae Dong-wook, Kim Duk-joong and Lee Sung-han

President Park Geun-hye made nominations for heads of 18 state-controlled organizations under the cabinet, including the chief of the prosecution, a position that has been vacant for months after a slew of bribery scandals involving serving prosecutors.

The Blue House yesterday released a list of appointments to the ministerial- or deputy ministerial-level positions. But the administration is still partly dysfunctional because the president’s government restructuring bill remains stuck in the National Assembly.

Chae Dong-wook, head of the Seoul High Prosecutors’ Office, was appointed to prosecutor general of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, the top position in the prosecution.

Born in Seoul, Chae graduated from Seoul National University’s law department and passed the 24th national bar exam. The 54-year-old was also deputy head of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office and head of the Daejeon High Prosecutors’ Office.

Chae is renowned for participation in special investigations involving political bigwigs. When he was a junior-level prosecutor, he took part in a special investigation into slush funds of former presidents Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae-woo. He also investigated Chun’s military coup on Dec. 12, 1979, and the May 18 Democratization Movement.

In 2003, when he was a senior prosecutor at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, he detained the chairman of the ruling Democratic Party, Chyung Dai-chul, a high-profile politician, on suspicion of receiving kickbacks from the owner of a local shopping center in 2003. At the time, Chyung resisted questioning, so Chae ordered investigators to arrest him in his house and bring him in. In 2006, he also shook up industrial circles by indicting Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Mong-koo for bribery.

“I feel a grave responsibility being nominated to be the next prosecutor general, while the prosecution is in crisis trying to regain the trust of the people,” Chae said in a statement yesterday. “With a humble spirit, I will do my best to prepare for the upcoming confirmation hearing.”

The nomination for the nation’s top prosecutor came 106 days after former chief Han Sang-dae stepped down last year, bitterly taking responsibility for internal conflicts and bribery scandals involving fellow prosecutors.

The opposition Democratic United Party expressed dissatisfaction in Chae’s nomination.

“On Dec. 2, ahead of the presidential election, the president announced her plan to reform the prosecution and pledged to kick out all corrupted prosecutors,” Kim Hyun, a DUP spokesman said at a briefing yesterday. “We deeply question whether she indeed has a will to reform the prosecution.

“The DUP will thoroughly scrutinize Chae to figure out whether he is indeed the right person to lead the reform of the prosecution,” the spokesman continued. “We also remind the president of her promise of Dec. 2, saying she won’t appoint a prosecutor-general nominee who is not approved by the legislature.”

Lee Sung-han, commissioner of the Busan Metropolitan Agency, was chosen to be commissioner of the National Police Agency. A native of Seoul, Lee graduated from the police administration department of Dongguk University.

The nomination of a new police chief came as a surprise, because expectations were high that police chief Kim Ki-yong would not be replaced. During her campaign, Park guaranteed a two-year term for the police chief to shield the police from political pressure.

Since the two-year term was designated by law in 2003, there has been only one commissioner who lasted for a full term. Others stayed in office for an average of about one year and three-month term and ended up stepping down, usually after political pressure.

Kim Duk-joong, commissioner of the Jungbu Regional Tax Office, was nominated to be chief of the National Tax Service. A native of Daejeon, Kim studied economics at Chung-Ang University.

Besides the three top officials, 15 heads of state organizations were also announced. Half of the 18 officials came from South and North Gyeongsang provinces.

“The standard for these nomination was the nominee’s expertise,” Yoon Chang-jung, a spokesman of Park, said at a briefing. “We urged promotions of insiders and avoided the practice of parachuting people in from the cabinet.”

Not all of the 18 nominees will be grilled at confirmation hearings. Under the law, only three - the nominees for police chief, prosecutor general and head of the tax agency - will have to attend confirmation hearings by the legislature, along with Nam Jae-joon, nominee to the National Intelligence Service.


By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]


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