Park names new education chief

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Park names new education chief

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President Park Geun-hye appointed Hwang Woo-yea, a high-profile Saenuri Party lawmaker, to fill the dual role of education minister and deputy prime minister for social affairs, abandoning her previous nomination of a high-profile professor accused of plagiarism.

Hwang, a 67-year-old five-term lawmaker from Incheon, was tapped to replace Kim Myung-soo, who was dragged through the mud for allegedly copying from a student for theses he submitted for promotions.

“President Park Geun-hye withdrew her appointment of Kim Myung-soo and appointed a new nominee to be education minister,” Min Kyung-wook, the presidential spokesman, said in a press briefing yesterday. “For the education minister, Hwang Woo-yea, an incumbent Saenuri Party lawmaker, was named.”

Although Hwang, a judge turned politician, has no experience teaching, Min said the president believed he would be qualified for the post.

“Hwang is recognized in his specialty in the education sector and overall social issues by working as a supreme council leader of the Saenuri Party, a chairman of the National Assembly’s Education Committee, a member of the Board of Audit and Inspection, and a senor judge at the Seoul Family Court,” the spokesman said. “We expect him to coordinate overall social issues and cultivate young talent based on his past experiences.”

Born in Incheon and a graduate of Seoul National University’s School of Law, Hwang passed the bar exam in 1969 and worked as a judge and also as a member of the BAI’s audit committee in a vice ministerial post until the 1990s. Hwang entered electoral politics in 1996 when he was elected as a proportional lawmaker of the New Korea Party, which merged with the United Democratic Party to form the Grand National Party, the predecessor of the Saenuri Party.

Since he won in a 2000 election to represent Incheon’s Yeonsu District in the National Assembly, he has never lost his seat for that constituency, including the last race in 2012. In the conservative party, Hwang also developed his political career as a secretary-general, a floor leader, and a former chairman.

When he was chairman of the Assembly’s Education Committee during the Roh Moo-hyun administration, he was one of the protesters who tried to block the then-ruling Open Uri Party’s passing of a bill to revise the Private School Act.

According to the Blue House spokesman, President Park was planning to request yesterday for the National Assembly to endorse all three of her nominees for education minister, culture minister, and security and public administration minister despite the rough times each had in confirmation hearings.

Kim Myung-soo, the former education minister nominee, was accused of both academic plagiarizing and illegal stock trading.

Chung Sung-keun, the culture minister nominee, came under fire during a confirmation hearing for a history of drunken driving and perjury.

Chong Jong-sup, the home affairs minister nominee, was criticized for engaging in real estate speculation, self-plagiarism, tax evasion and receiving special treatment to keep his teaching job while serving in the military.

Instead, she replaced Kim with Hwang and then asked the Assembly to adopt reports on the other two nominees, the next step in the Assembly’s endorsement of the nominees.

Under current law, the president could set a deadline for the Assembly to endorse them. Park yesterday told lawmakers to make a decision by midnight, her spokesman Min told reporters.

Even if the opposition lawmakers refuse to do that, the president does not need an approval from the Assembly by law. She could push ahead with her appointments, although there could be a political price to pay.

Along with the education minister’s nomination, Park also picked a new second deputy minister for the Minister of Security and Public Administration and a senior presidential secretary for human resources affairs at the Blue House.

Lee Sung-ho, a former president of the state-run Korea National Defense University under the Ministry of National Defense, was tapped as the deputy security minister. Born in North Chungcheong, Lee, 60, was a lieutenant general in the South Korean Army and a former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s operation division and a former commander of the 3rd Corps of the Army.

The new Blue House secretary, Jung Jin-chul, CEO of the state-run Daejeon Welfare Foundation, is from South Chungcheong. He passed the civil service exam and worked at various human resources departments for the government. He was chief of the powerful Human Resources Committee, which is now under the Security Ministry.

Lee is expected to work at a newly launched national safety office, as the Security Ministry will separate its role of public safety as part of the president’s efforts to revamp public administration in the aftermath of April’s Sewol ferry disaster.

“Lee is a specialist in operations and public safety with his strong leadership in managing organizations,” Min, the presidential spokesman, said. “Particularly in 2011, when he was chief of the military support bureau of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he contributed to the successful rescue operation of the kidnapped Korean crew of the Samho Jewelry tanker in the Gulf of Aden.”

In his acceptance speech, Hwang told reporters his most urgent priority as education minister would be to resolve issues around the Sewol ferry accident.

“If I become education minister, my most urgent duty would be resolving the problems involving the families of the lost students, the teachers and those students who are still missing,” he said.

In terms of his lack of experience in education, Hwang stressed that he worked at the Assembly’s education committee for more than a decade.

“I have been a lawmaker for 18 years and have worked at the Education Committee of the Assembly for about 13 years,” he said. “As a member of the committee, I can surely say I have never abandoned matters of education.”

BY KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr ]

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