Moon tabs reformists for education, justice, defense

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Moon tabs reformists for education, justice, defense


President Moon Jae-in on Sunday confirmed his intention to overhaul the country’s education, justice and defense sectors by appointing as new ministers reformists with no ties to the established powers in the respective ministries.

Moon nominated Kim Sang-kon, former head of the Gyeonggi Provincial Education Office, as the deputy prime minister for social affairs and education minister, said Park Soo-hyun, presidential spokesman. Ahn Kyong-whan, former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, was named to head the Ministry of Justice. Former Navy Chief of Staff Song Young-moo was nominated to become the minister of national defense.

Kim, the architect of the free school lunch program, is known as an icon of reform in the liberal education circle. The 67-year-old was elected twice to serve as the head of the Gyeonggi Provincial Education Office from 2009 to 2014.

In 2015, Kim worked for the Democratic Party to improve its plunging popularity and resolve factional conflict. Moon, who was the chairman of the party at the time, recruited him to salvage the party from its defeats in the April by-elections.

The Blue House expects that Kim will successfully advance reform projects to offer equal education opportunities, improve the fairness of the college admission system and create a future-oriented public school system, Park said.

Moon nominated Ahn, honorary professor of law at Seoul National University, as the justice minister to demonstrate his will to set the ministry free from the influence of the prosecution, one of the most powerful organs of the country. Ahn’s nomination, although not unprecedented, is unconventional as he has never served in the prosecution.

Ahn was named as head of the rights commission in October 2006 by then President Roh Moo-hyun, a liberal politician and political mentor of Moon. Ahn, however, stepped down from the post in July 2009 to protest the conservative Lee Myung-bak administration’s decision to downsize the watchdog.

“He is a renowned legal scholar and specialist of rights policy,” Park said. “He understands the importance of human rights better than anyone, and he worked hard to protect the independence of the National Human Rights Commission.”

Park also said Ahn is the best person to reinforce the neutrality and independence of the prosecution and push forward prosecutorial reform.

Song, a former admiral who served as the Navy chief of staff, also has the expertise and driving force to overhaul the defense ministry and the military, Park said.

During the Roh presidency, Song served as the strategy and planning head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and created the defense reform 2020 initiative and a plan to regain Korea’s wartime operational control from the United States. The transfer was scheduled for 2012, but delayed by the succeeding conservative presidents. Moon said he will complete it during his presidency.

Song is also seen as the best person to overhaul the defense policy, which has long been controlled by the Army. If confirmed, Song will work with Vice Minister Suh Choo-suk, appointed last week, to advance defense reform. Suh worked in the Roh Blue House and promoted a plan to lessen the country’s heavy reliance on the United States.

Moon also nominated Kim Eun-kyung, an expert of sustainable development, as environment minister. Cho Dae-yop, a Korea University professor known for his labor policy study, was named as the minister of employment and labor.

After announcing the nominations, Park said the Blue House’s vetting process revealed some flaws, but the president decided to make the selections public.

Cho has a record of driving under the influence of alcohol, Park said. Song violated the law governing the registration of one’s address, but it was not for real estate speculation or his child’s education. “It was a violation committed concerning his frequent rotations as a soldier,” Park said.

Later in the day, Moon also nominated four vice minister-level posts. Han Sung-hee, head of the Seoul Regional Office of the National Tax Service, was named to serve as the head of the tax agency.

Ahn Byung-ok, a researcher and environmental activist with specialties in climate change, was appointed as the vice minister of environment. Yi Sung-ki, a longtime public servant, was named as the vice minister of labor.

Cho Kwang, an honorary history professor of Korea University, was named as the head of the National Institute of Korean History. Cho is a veteran historian with extensive and excellent research accomplishments, the Blue House said.

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