Park gov’t starts filling vacant top positions

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Park gov’t starts filling vacant top positions

The prosecution and Ministry of Justice are set to hold a meeting today to pick a new prosecutor-general, signaling the start of a series of appointments by the Park Geun-hye administration to fill vacant leadership positions at government institutions and public companies.

A candidate recommendation committee will deliberate on 10 candidates for the top post at the prosecution, which has remained empty since Oct. 1, when former Prosecutor-General Chae Dong-wook stepped down amid a scandal about a secret love child, which he denied having.

Since Park is scheduled to depart for a visit to Europe next Saturday, there is a high chance she will confirm the candidates for prosecutor-general and chairman of the Board of Audit and Inspection before then, according to a source at the Blue House.

“The process to select a new prosecutor-general has been notably smooth,” he said.

On top of its leadership vacuum, the prosecution has seen headline-making infighting over an investigation into National Intelligence Service agents’ alleged interference in last year’s presidential election campaign. Analysts say a new head prosecutor is a top priority.

The candidate recommendation committee has been accepting suggestions from various groups since Oct. 8 and drew up a shortlist of 10 former and incumbent prosecutors after receiving approval from the candidates to be scrutinized. The committee will narrow down its list to three or more final candidates, and the minister of justice will recommend one to the president, who has the right to approve or disapprove. The candidate must then go through a National Assembly confirmation hearing.

The government is also on the verge of finalizing a list of candidates for chairman of the Board of Audit and Inspection, according to sources. Yang Kun, the former chairman who began the job in 2011, stepped down in August even though his term had 19 remaining months. The post, granted a status equivalent to that of deputy prime minister, is one of the top five positions in government institutions, alongside head of the National Intelligence Service, prosecution, police and National Tax Service. The chairman of the board is usually a former judge, prosecutor or law professor.

A minister of health and welfare is likely to be appointed after Park returns from an eight-day trip to France, the United Kingdom and Belgium on Nov. 9.

Former minister Chin Young, who is currently a lawmaker with the ruling Saenuri Party, resigned on Sept. 30 despite several attempts by the president to persuade him to stay on.

Author of Park’s welfare campaign pledges in last year’s presidential election, Chin decided to quit after the government scaled back its promise to pay a 200,000 won ($186) basic pension to all Koreans 65 years of age and older. “I could not campaign for a government policy that breached my principles,” he said in an interview with the JoongAng Sunday earlier this month.

The Park administration is also accelerating moves to fill vacant top posts at some 35 public companies such as Korea Expressway and Korea Water Resources. The figure amounts to 12 percent of the total top positions, and the vacuum has lasted for over two months at 10 companies.

Park insists on a principle of filling posts with qualified people, not people owed political favors.

However, the ruling party has been trying to persuade her to consider party members, or others who contributed to her election, when it comes to filling top jobs at public companies.

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