Chin is out but Blue House reshuffle is denied

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Chin is out but Blue House reshuffle is denied

President Park Geun-hye finally accepted the resignation of Minister of Health and Welfare Chin Young, but the Blue House denied that any broader reshuffle was on the cards for the cabinet.

Prime Minister Chung Hong-won blasted Chin for giving up on the government after the president was forced to scale back a campaign promise to give all senior citizens a 200,000 won ($186) basic pension because it proved too costly. Chin helped write that campaign promise.

“The government is now accepting Chin’s resignation, based on our judgment that he can no longer fulfill his duty as a cabinet member,” Chung said in a press release. “A series of acts taken by Chin before the public has been extremely regrettable .?.?. It’s hard to understand Chin saying that he now has a different stance over the basic universal pension plans after participating in laying them out in the first place. He shouldn’t have accepted the post in the first place.”

Chin’s intention to step down after the government admitted it was scaling back the pension plan was in a newspaper report two weeks earlier.The former minister told acquaintances he wanted to quit before departing on a government trip to promote medical tourism in Saudi Arabia, it said.

The pension plan was scaled back due to its high cost. It will be given to senior citizens in the lower 70 percent income group, and the amount will depend on their income and how much they have paid into the national pension plan. Chin opposed linking the new basic pension to the national pension system, saying it would encourage people to withdraw subscriptions or stop paying into the plan.

On his way back from Saudi Arabia, Chin confirmed his plan to quit with reporters and did it twice later. But Park urged him to remain in the government.

Chin’s resignation, which came on the same day the Blue House approved the resignation of Prosecutor-General Chae Dong-wook, has punched two holes in the administration’s lineup of top positions. Three additional posts also remain vacant - chairman of the Board of Audit and Inspection, one of the Board of Audit’s council commissioners, and vice minister of culture, sports and tourism. Even so, the government is not going to push ahead with a reshuffle, possibly because the first regular session of the National Assembly for the Park administration is currently underway.

“What I can tell you for sure is that no reshuffle is impending,” Lee Jung-hyun, senior secretary for public affairs at the Blue House, told reporters yesterday after Park met with senior secretaries.

Park also criticized her ex-welfare minister in a roundabout way during a speech at the meeting. “You will be trusted by the public by doing your best to fulfill your duties especially when the situation is more difficult,” she said. “Dodging criticism won’t solve problems. The willingness and belief to confidently solve all problems can eventually allow you to do so.”

BY SEO JI-EUN [spring@joongang.co.kr]

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