7 new ministers in Park’s shuffle

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7 new ministers in Park’s shuffle


President Park Geun-hye yesterday named seven new ministers in the first major reshuffling of her cabinet following a harsh public backlash to the government’s poor handling of the Sewol ferry disaster.

She also created a new deputy prime minister position for education, society and culture.

“President Park nominated seven new ministers in order to enable a major remodeling of the nation, achieve the vital mission of safety of the people, successfully propel the three-year economic innovation plan and push for reform in the areas of education, society and culture as demanded by society,” said presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook in a briefing yesterday.

Min went on to name the nominees to head the ministries of Strategy and Finance; Education; Science, ICT and Future Planning; Government Administration and Home Affairs; Culture, Sports and Tourism; Employment and Labor; and Gender Equality and Family.

Including a new defense minister named earlier this month, Park reshuffled eight ministers out of a total of 17, the first big reshuffling of her cabinet in 15 months.

Choi Kyung-hwan, 59, a three-term lawmaker and former minister of knowledge economy in the Lee Myung-bak administration, was named to the double post of deputy prime minister for the economy and minister of strategy and finance.

North Gyeongsang native Choi replaces Hyun Oh-seok, who has faced criticism for failing to effectively carry out measures to rev up the economy and implement Park’s three-year economic innovation plan.

Kim Myung-soo, 66, a professor at Korea National University of Education and the president of the Korean Educational Research Association, was tapped as education minister to replace Seo Nam-soo. Kim will also hold the status as the newly established deputy prime minister responsible for education, society and culture.

The new minister of science, ICT and future planning is Choi Yang-hee, 59, a professor of computer science and engineering at Seoul National University and head of the nonprofit Samsung Science and Technology Foundation. Choi, from Gangneung in Gangwon, succeeds Science Minister Choi Mun-kee.

A 57-year-old law professor at Seoul National University, Chong Jong-sup, was tapped as home affairs minister nominee. Chong, a North Gyeongsang native, replaces Security Minister Kang Byung-kyu after the ministry came under fire following the government’s handling of the ferry accident. Last month, Park announced that the Ministry of Security and Public Administration would be renamed the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs, the name it held from 1998 until 2008.

Lee Ki-kweon, 57, president at Korea Tech and former vice minister of labor in the Lee administration, was picked as the labor minister nominee. South Jeolla native Lee spent nearly three decades as an official in the Labor Ministry and became a secretary on employment and labor affairs to former President Lee Myung-bak in 2000. He succeeds Labor Minister Phang Ha-nam.

Chung Sung-keun, 59, president and CEO of the government-affiliated broadcaster Arirang TV, was named culture, sports and tourism minister designate to succeed Yoo Jin-ryong. Chung, a veteran TV anchor for broadcaster SBS, also contributed to Park’s election campaign as a public relations official.

The youngest of the batch, 43-year-old Busan native Kim Hee-jung, a two-term lawmaker of the ruling Saenuri Party and a “soccer mom” of two kids, was named to replace Cho Yoon-sun as minister of gender equality and family. Cho was appointed Wednesday as the new senior secretary for political affairs, the first woman to assume the post.

On June 1, Park appointed Minister of National Defense Kim Kwan-jin as chief of the National Security Office, and nominated Han Min-koo, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to take Kim’s place.

However, Minister of Oceans and Fisheries Lee Ju-young was not among the cabinet members replaced in yesterday’s announcement, taking into consideration the ministry’s ongoing role in handling the aftermath of the April 16 Sewol ferry disaster.

Min explained that Minister Lee has offered to resign many times, but that Park believes that “in a situation when the Sewol ferry accident recovery efforts are not yet complete, it is not desirable for the bereaved families of the victims to create a prolonged period of vacuum by changing [ministers].”

The most notable difference in the make-up of the new minister appointees is the marked decrease in the number of public officials from seven in her initial cabinet to four in the new cabinet of 18 posts including the prime minister.

Instead, Park looked to politicians, journalists and academics for some of these cabinet posts.

This move came after the president vowed to eradicate corrupt practices in the government after the passenger ferry capsized off the southwestern coast on April 16.

Since the Sewol ferry disaster, which left more than 300 people dead or missing, Park has emphasized uprooting the corrupt connections between government officials and businesses, commonly known as gwanfia, a portmanteau of gwalyo, the Korean word for officials, and mafia.

Seoul National University remains the most popular alma mater of the new cabinet, with seven out of 18 graduates from the prestigious university, down from eight before the reshuffle. The average age of ministers was lowered slightly from 59.67 to 58.67, while six members are from Seoul compared to seven before.

The announcement came a day after the Blue House announced four new presidential senior secretaries in political affairs, economic affairs, civil affairs, and education and culture.

Park also named career journalist Moon Chang-keuk, former editor in chief of the JoongAng Ilbo, as her prime minister nominee on Tuesday, a decision that has caused some controversy because of his conservative writings from the past. Moon, if approved by the National Assembly, will replace Prime Minister Chung Hong-won, who resigned to take responsibility for the Sewol disaster.

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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