Prime ministerial nominee hints at plans for role

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Prime ministerial nominee hints at plans for role

Prime ministerial nominee Lee Wan-koo on Monday pledged to exercise his rights as prime minister as stipulated in the Constitution, in what appeared to be a hint that he intends to wield greater power than his predecessors.

The ruling Saenuri Party’s former floor leader was commuting for a third day to an office the government reserved for him near the Blue House in central Seoul, where he will stay until his confirmation hearing takes place.

When a group of reporters asked him whether he would be a “responsible prime minister,” a term that has come into use in the political arena that refers to a prime minister who is handed additional power and responsibility, Lee responded that the phase was merely a “political term,” not a legal one.

President Park presented the responsible prime ministerial system as one of her key pledges during the 2012 presidential campaign, though the role of her first prime minister, Chung Hong-won, did not deviate from that of his predecessors, analysts have argued. President Park is known for micromanaging and being meticulously detailed when it comes to state affairs. That in itself gave Chung little room to hold sway, experts say.

Prime ministers in Korea have largely been considered nominal with few exceptions, only fulfilling duties to complement those of the president and having little influence. But whether a prime minister is responsible or not is gauged by whether that person is granted the right to recommend ministerial candidates or fire other ministers. Currently, the president holds that right, though she may choose to yield it to the prime minister.

A senior Saenuri lawmaker said that Lee has an edge over his predecessors in that he is “immensely trusted by the Blue House.

“It appears Lee is in a political situation in which he is able to deliver his thoughts to the president without filtering, which is possible thanks to their amicable relationship,” he said.

On Monday, the prime minister’s office said that the Blue House had submitted to the National Assembly a motion sanctioned by the president for parliamentary approval of Lee’s appointment. A hearing should be completed within 20 days.

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


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