Only 5 Cabinet Ministers Replaced

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Only 5 Cabinet Ministers Replaced

President Kim Dae-jung replaced five cabinet members Friday, in a less sweeping reshuffle than had been predicted.

In the most closely watched appointment, Seoul's ambassador to China, Hong Soon-young, was named as the new unification minister.

Other new faces in the cabinet lineup are: Kim Dong-tae, head of the state-run Agricultural and Fishery Marketing Corp., who becomes minister of agriculture and forestry; Ahn Jung-nam, head of National Tax Service, who becomes construction and transportation minister; Yu Sam-nam, a National Assembly member named minister of maritime affairs and fisheries, and Yoo Yong-tae, another lawmaker who will be minister of labor.

"The president has recruited individuals who will stabilize the political realm and carry through the reform tasks of the 'government of the people'," Park Joon-young, the presidential spokesman, said.

He said that the next round of reassignments, covering party and presidential secretaries, will take place Monday.

After all 22 cabinet members tendered their resignations Tuesday in the wake of the collapse of the ruling coalition, there had been speculation that President Kim would take the opportunity for a broader shakeup. The crisis was precipitated by a parliamentary no-confidence vote against the former unification minister, Lim Dong-won.

His successor, Mr. Hong, a career diplomat and former minister of foreign affairs and trade, reflects Mr. Kim's determination to continue the "sunshine policy" toward North Korea, despite the rupture of the ruling coalition, presidential aides explained.

South and North Korea are expected to hold government-level dialogue in Seoul on Sept. 15.

The expected appointment of Mr. Lim as special presidential envoy is also expected to buttress the president's commitment to the sunshine policy, insiders said. With the new appointments, Mr. Kim has eliminated all members of the United Liberal Democrats, his erstwhile coalition partner, from his cabinet - except for the prime minister, Lee Han-dong, who was expelled from his party for sticking with the president. Mr. Kim will attempt to govern with a parliamentary minority.

The new cabinet appointments broaden the body's regional representation, with only Mr. Ahn hailing from South Cholla province, a bastion of the president's political strength.

The appointment of Mr. Ahn is construed as a presidential reward for his work directing the investigation of alleged tax evasion by national media companies. Bringing the two legislators into the cabinet is being taken as a bid to consolidate ruling-party unity.

The expected appointment of Han Kwang-ok to the party chairmanship is seen as putting forth the best spokesman for the president and party as they head into next year's local and presidential elections. But it could backfire.

A group of junior lawmakers who demanded an overhaul of the party leadership in March is poised to quit the party if Mr. Han is named. Ten of the first-termers, calling themselves "Dawn 21," huddled early Friday morning and issued a statement of protest.

"The current situation does not reflect our demands, nor the party's demands for reform," the statement said. "We will take all measures for reform of the party, including coming out with a major decision."

The group includes Representatives Lee Jae-jung, Kim Seong-ho and Park In-sang. Insiders described heavy internal struggle in the ruling camp, with a war of nerves being waged between those inside and outside the president's Donggyo-dong faction, and between senior and younger lawmakers.

The Blue House warned the lawmakers, saying, "Threatening to leave the party for differences of opinion is not becoming of a Millennium Democrat."

With Prime Minister Lee retained and the planned appointment of Mr. Han, the Blue House chief of staff, to the party chairmanship, the most important remaining vacancy to fill is that of Blue House chief of staff.

A top trusted aide, Park Jie-won, presidential secretary for policy planning, was talked up as a strong candidate, but he denied that he would get the post.

"We are looking for an outside figure, a non-ruling camp figure," Park Jie-won said. The presidential secretary for political affairs, Nam Kung-jin, will not be reassigned.

The opposition Grand National Party assessed the cabinet shakeup as a "strengthening of President Kim Dae-jung's one-man rule." A statement issued by a party spokesman critiqued each new appointee and concluded: "The appointments reflect President Kim Dae-jung's politics of obstinacy."

Meanwhile, the United Liberal Democrats, in expelling their former president, Prime Minister Lee, from party membership, shrank their parliamentary delegation to 15. They held 20 seats at the beginning of the week, but four of their nominal legislators had been "borrowed" from the Millennium Democrats so that the smaller party could qualify as a negotiating bloc.

by Kim Jin-kook

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