Blue House struggles to find clean prime minister

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Blue House struggles to find clean prime minister


Although nearly two weeks have passed since the Blue House resumed its search for a new prime minister, a replacement for incumbent Chung Hong-won hasn’t been announced.

President Park Geun-hye was widely expected to announce her nominee for Prime Minister on Sunday but only ended up appointing a new senior secretary for public affairs to replace Lee Jung-hyun.

Sources in the political realm say the president is being overly cautious with her nomination this time after Ahn Dae-hee, who was flatteringly described as “Mr. Clean” for his integrity, withdrew his nomination after it was discovered he raked in 1.6 billion won ($1.6 million) in fees as a lawyer in just five months after he retired as a Supreme Court justice.

Prime Minister Chung Hong-won tendered his resignation in the wake of the Sewol ferry tragedy on April 16 to take responsibility for the shoddy handling of the rescue but his term is being prolonged due to the later-than-expected designation of a successor.

A handful of politicians, government officials, academics and a former Supreme Court justice have been mentioned as candidates for the post, which the president has promised to give greater power and responsibility.

But the Blue House appears more concerned about whether the nominee’s career and personal life have been flawless enough to get through a confirmation hearing.

The nomination is expected no later than the end of this week given that the president is leaving Seoul for a six-day trip to Central Asia next Monday.

Meanwhile, the appointment of Yoon Doo-hyun, a former journalist and president of cable news network YTN Plus, as senior presidential secretary for public affairs on Sunday signals a reshuffle at the Blue House is impending.

Among the presidential office staff, Kim Ki-choon, presidential chief-of-staff, was expected to step down voluntarily but he is likely to retain his post at least until the reshuffle at the Blue House and cabinet wraps up since President Park relies heavily on him, say analysts.

The pressure on him to resign has weakened due to the fact that the ruling Saenuri Party performed better than expected in the June 4 local elections.

The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, as well as some lawmakers in the ruling party, took issue with the loyal aide, who was close to Park’s father, former President Park Chung Hee.

They painted him as an evil mastermind behind President Park’s key decisions.

Saenuri Representative Kim Moo-sung, who is set to run for party chairman at the July 14 convention, said yesterday the 75-year-old chief of staff is to be blamed for making the relationship between the main party and the Blue House “overly hierarchical.” He said Kim “needs to change.”


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

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