Two ministers dropped in reshuffle

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Two ministers dropped in reshuffle

President Park Geun-hye dismissed the two outgoing ministers yesterday, despite the fact that they have not yet been replaced by new nominees.

The president’s spokesman, Min Kyung-wook, told reporters yesterday at a briefing that the Blue House has notified the two ministers, Seo Nam-soo, from the Ministry of Education, and Yoo Jin-ryong, from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, of their removal from their posts as part of her second-round Cabinet reshuffle in the wake of the Sewol ferry disaster.

The two posts will remain vacant for a while, a rarity in Korean politics. The education ministry nominee, Hwang Woo-yea, has not yet attended a confirmation hearing, as Park recently withdrew her former nominee, Kim Myung-soo, who was accused of plagiarism.

The nominee for culture minister has also not been selected. Chung Sung-keun, the president’s former pick, abruptly walked away from the job on Wednesday after nonstop criticism from the opposition over his history of drunken driving and for lying during his confirmation hearing last week.

“We don’t have a plan to announce a new nominee for culture minister,” Min told reporters. “We are seeking a new figure, but we are not sure when the announcement will be.”

The spokesman also gave a detailed explanation for Chung’s sudden resignation, which came after discussions between the president and assemblymen. “When it comes to the various incidents regarding Chung’s nomination, the leaders of both the ruling and opposition parties expressed their opinions, along with the lawmakers who attended his confirmation hearing,” Min said. “A broad range of opinions was reflected on his nomination, and the presidential secretary listened to all of them and reported them to the president.”

It is expected that the two ministerial posts will remain vacant for more than a month. It is also likely that it will be at least a month until Hwang, the nominee for education minister, goes through a confirmation hearing.

Installing a new culture minister is urgent for Seoul officials, however, as the ministry is in charge of managing Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to Korea in August. The unusual dismissal came amid rising public criticism over the president’s struggle to complete her Cabinet reshuffle, months after the sinking of the doomed ferry.

The president decided to maintain outgoing Prime Minister Chung Hong-won, an unprecedented move, even after he tendered his resignation to take responsibility for the government’s poor handling of the Sewol crisis.

The decision came after two prime ministerial designates, Ahn Dae-hee, a prosecutor turned lawyer, and Moon Chang-keuk, a former JoongAng Ilbo editor, withdrew their nominations in quick succession. Ahn stepped down amid controversy over a small fortune he amassed after his retirement. Moon faced backlash over remarks he made in a 2011 address at his church on Japan’s colonial rule over Korea.

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




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