Despite warning, a few ministers eyeing the pollsDespite the president’s warning to politicians-turned-ministers to keep their focus on the administration, a few cabinet members have admitted that their next career moves will be the legislative elections next year.
President Park Geun-hye’s cabinet currently includes five sitting lawmakers from the ruling Saenuri Party, and some observers have speculated that they may vacate their posts soon to concentrate on managing their districts ahead of the legislative elections in April.
Among the five lawmakers-turned-ministers, Minister of Gender Equality and Family Kim Hee-jung has made clear her intention to run in the April elections.
“I will run for reelection,” she said in a meeting with reporters Tuesday.
The two-term Saenuri lawmaker, who represents Busan’s Yeonje District, was recruited to head the ministry in June 2014.
“I will do my best until Jan. 14,” Kim added.
According to election laws, a minister must resign from his or her post 90 days before the poll.
Kim, however, said she has no intention of stepping down anytime soon for her campaign.
“I came because I was appointed by the president, so I can only go when I am told to do so,” she said.
Kim, 44, won her first election in 2004, becoming the youngest ever politician to enter the National Assembly. From 2010 to 2011, she served as the spokesperson for the Presidential Office of Lee Myung-bak and was then reelected in her district in the 2012 legislative elections.
Kim’s remark came as a surprise following the president’s warning to her ministers last week to stay away from politics.
“Ministers must lead their ministries on behalf of the people and there should be no self-serving path,” Park said on July 7. “You must sacrifice and serve the people and do your best for the country’s economy and the people’s lives.”
In addition to Minister Kim, Choi Kyung-hwan, the deputy prime minister for the economy, and Hwang Woo-yea, the deputy prime minister for education, are incumbent lawmakers. Choi is a three-term lawmaker and Hwang is a five-term lawmaker.
Yoo Il-ho, the minister of land, infrastructure and transport, is a two-term lawmaker, while Yoo Ki-june, the minister of oceans and fisheries, is a three-term lawmaker.
Deputy Prime Minister Choi was largely expected to run in the next election, having said earlier in May that, “I am originally a politician and I will go back to my original place.”
However, after the opposition party questioned his commitment, he said he would concentrate on reviving the economy.
Still, during an interview earlier this month, he stated that his goal until the end of the year would be the economic recovery. Although he avoided discussing his plan, Choi mentioned the timeline for his responsibilities as deputy prime minister, hinting that he would leave the administration in January to begin his campaign.
Sources close to Choi said that he had reportedly told them that he would return to the political arena as soon as the next year’s budget bill was passed. The statutory deadline for its passage is Dec. 2.
Hwang has also expressed an intention to run in next year’s general elections. Rumors have since spread through the ruling party that he had informed a presidential aide that he would return to politics, but has not received an answer from the Blue House.
In February, when Park tapped two sitting lawmakers to lead the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, concerns arose during their confirmation hearings that they could potentially step down from their posts within the year to return to their districts. Neither minister denied the possibility during their hearings.
BY SER MYO-JA [firstname.lastname@example.org]