Moon reshuffles 7 cabinet seats
Rep. Park Young-sun of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) was named minister of small- and medium-sized enterprises and start-ups and Rep. Chin Young was appointed to head the Interior and Security Ministry, presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said in a press briefing on Friday.
Moon also named five non-politicians to ministerial posts in the reshuffle. Kim Yeon-chul, head of the Korea Institute for National Unification, was named unification minister to oversee North Korea policy.
Cho Dong-ho, a professor from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), was named science minister, and Park Yang-woo, a professor from Chung-Ang University and a former culture minister, was nominated minister of culture, sports and tourism.
Choi Jeong-ho, former second vice minister of the Land and Transportation Ministry, was named to head the ministry. Moon appointed Moon Seong-hyeok, professor of the World Maritime University, minister of oceans and fisheries.
The cabinet reshuffle was announced days before Moon’s departure for an overseas trip on Sunday. Moon will take state visits to Brunei, Malaysia and Cambodia through March 16.
All seven ministers will have to go through the National Assembly’s non-binding confirmation hearings before their formal appointments.
“As Moon’s presidency enters its midterm, we believed it is important to produce tangible outcomes that the people can actually feel,” presidential spokesman Kim said. “To this end, we appointed veterans whose abilities are already proven.”
The Blue House said the appointments of Park Young-sun and Chin - both considered moderate and non-Moon loyalists - were intended to promote unity and balance.
Park, a four-term lawmaker and an advocate of chaebol reform, was the co-chairwoman of Moon’s presidential campaign.
Before then, she led the failed presidential campaign of South Chungcheong Gov. An Hee-jung during the Democratic primary in 2017.
Chin, also a fourth-term lawmaker, is a conservative-turned-liberal. He served as health and welfare minister in the Park Geun-hye administration, but left the main conservative Saenuri Party (now Liberty Korea Party) and joined the DP in 2016.
All five non-politician minister nominees had ties to the Roh Moo-hyun administration and served as public servants or advisers.
Another key theme in the reshuffle was a strategy to bring the DP a general election victory in April 2020.
The election, scheduled for the end of Moon’s third year, is considered crucial to the political fate of the liberals.
Both Park and Chin agreed before accepting the nominations that they won’t run in the April 2020 general election, Kim said.
Among the seven outgoing ministers, four are incumbent lawmakers.
Representatives Kim Boo-kyum, Kim Young-choon, Kim Hyun-mee and Do Jong-hwan are expected to seek re-election next year.
Three other outgoing ministers, including Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, are reportedly preparing campaigns.
While Moon set free four lawmakers on Friday, three lawmakers including Deputy Prime Minister of Society Yoo Eun-hae are still serving in cabinet posts.
They are expected to go back to the DP before the end of this year to prepare for re-election, indicating that a smaller shakeup may take place later in the year.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, Health and Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo and Justice Minister Park Sang-ki are the remaining inaugural members of the cabinet.
In January, Moon replaced seven key aides at the Blue House including Chief of Staff Im Jong-seok, and most of them reportedly have plans to run in the legislative election.
On Thursday evening, DP Chairman Lee Hae-chan hosted a dinner with the seven former presidential aides and discussed their next steps.
“I have no specific plan yet, but if the party asks, I will dedicate myself [to it],” Im replied to Lee’s welcome remark, according to DP spokesman Hong Ik-pyo.
Hong said no specific offers and requests were traded at the meeting. Six of the seven are already Democrats, and former senior presidential secretary for public affairs Yoon Young-chan expressed his intention to join the party on Thursday, Hong said.
Speculation is high that DP Chairman Lee will soon meet with the outgoing ministers who will return to the party.
A precondition to joining the cabinet in the latest reshuffle was a vow to not run in the upcoming legislative election, and that narrowed down candidates. Only two politicians ended up joining the cabinet this time.
BY SER MYO-JA [email@example.com]