Yoo demands a genuine shuffle

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Yoo demands a genuine shuffle

An upcoming overhaul of the cabinet and presidential secretariat will be the first test of a changed dynamic between the Blue House and ruling party as the newly elected Saenuri floor leader intensified his pressure on President Park Geun-hye Tuesday for big changes.

Park plans to complete the reorganization of the presidential secretariat and announce ministerial nominees soon after the Saenuri Party completes its leadership election.

The ruling party elected Rep. Yoo Seong-min as its new floor leader on Monday to fill the vacancy created by Park’s nomination of Rep. Lee Wan-koo as her new prime minister. Rep. Won Yoo-chul, who teamed up with Yoo, was elected the chief policymaker.

Although he once served as the chief of staff for Park when she headed the Grand National Party, the predecessor of the Saenuri Party, Yoo is considered a non-mainstream lawmaker who no longer is a member of the pro-Park faction.

He won the second-most powerful position in the party on a pledge to put the Saenuri back at the center of national policy-making, promising to be assertive in his demands on the Blue House.

On his first day as floor leader, Yoo did not hesitate to pressure Park to make more sweeping changes in the presidential secretariat and cabinet.

“The president announced her first reshuffle choices last month, and many people are still expressing their disappointment,” Yoo said in an interview with KBS radio Tuesday morning. “I believe the public has made clear what they want from the president when she carries out an overhaul. I have no intention of naming specific people, but I believe the president already knows.”

Park nominated Lee as her new prime minister and carried out a minor restructuring of the Blue House secretariat on Jan. 23, but kept herself surrounded by loyalists in the Blue House, including Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon and three long-time secretaries. Although the reshuffle was meant to improve her approval ratings, it backfired.

With Park’s popularity sinking as she enters the third year in her term, political observers said the ruling party, which commands 158 lawmakers in the 300-seat National Assembly, is in a good position in dealing with the Blue House.

Yoo’s demand for a more drastic overhaul of the cabinet and the secretariat is expected to affect Park’s decision, they said.

For the cabinet, Park will have to name a new minister of oceans and fisheries after Lee Ju-young resigned in December. The Park loyalist ran in Monday’s election against Yoo but lost.

Although Park has said she will change the least possible number of ministers to maintain consistency in state affairs, Yoo’s demand for more drastic change may alter her plan.

Speculation has grown that Park will replace Chief of Staff Kim. She said during a New Year’s news conference that the matter would be dealt with after pending issues were resolved.

Kim was conspicuously missing at Sunday’s emergency meeting of top presidential and cabinet members, fueling speculation that he will soon be replaced. Outgoing Prime Minister Chung Hong-won also did not attend the meeting.

Observers also said Park will include more reformists, rather than loyalists, when she names a group of special political advisors.

BY SER MYO-JA [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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