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Roh’s Cabinet Reshuffle Draws Criticism

Posted January. 03, 2006 03:04,   


President Roh Moo-hyun announced the appointment of four new ministers, including the Minister of Science and Technology, yesterday.

The opposition parties are reacting unfavorably to the cabinet reshuffle. Since the newly amended hearing law states that ministers, too, should be subject to confirmation hearings, conflicts may be unavoidable at the new ministers’ hearings.

Roh nominated former presidential chief of staff Kim Woo-sik as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Science and Technology, National Security Council deputy chief Lee Jong-seok as Minister of Unification, Uri Party chairman Jung Se-kyun as Minister of Commerce, Industry and Energy, and Uri Party lawmaker Lee Sang-su as Minister of Labor.

In response, the Grand National Party (GNP), Democratic Party and Democratic Labor Party (DLP) all criticized the president for putting loyalty before competence by filling ministerial posts with his close associates and politicians from the governing party. The opposition parties complained that the reshuffle is proof of the president’s nepotism.

The vacancy for the Minister of Health and Welfare is expected to be filled by Yoo Si-min, an Uri Party legislator. Given the fact that other Uri Party lawmakers might protest against the decision, Yoo Si-min’s appointment was not announced on January 2. However, according to sources, the president will push ahead with his nomination after consulting with the leadership of his party.

“The president thinks Yoo deserves an opportunity to serve in the cabinet. Considering opposition from some in his own party, the president will consult with the party leadership. But the official announcement of the nomination will take place shortly,” said Kim Wan-ki, senior secretary to the president on personnel affairs.

These ministerial appointments will be followed by another cabinet reshuffle after the Uri Party convention scheduled for February 18. At that time he will replace many of his cabinet members so that they can take part in local elections.

The replacements are expected to include Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education and Human Resources Development Kim Jin-pyo, Minister of Government Administration and Home Affairs Oh Young-kyo, Minister of Environment Lee Jae-yong, Minister of Construction and Transportation Choo Byung-jik, and Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Oh Keo-don.

Observing the president’s personnel shifts, some are raising concerns that Cheong Wa Dae is bestowing ministerial posts on politicians as if they were a “certificate of qualification” that increases the possibility of politicians’ winning elections.

“The new cabinet serves the political interests of only a few and demonstrates shameful nepotism. The president should reverse his appointments and reselect members of his cabinet, including the prime minister,” argued GNP spokesperson Lee Gye-jin.

“Neither discipline nor moral principles can be found in the cabinet reshuffle,” Democratic Party spokesperson Yoo Jong-pil said. “Only the president’s close and loyal associates were rewarded through the ministerial appointments,” DLP spokesperson Park Yong-jin said bitterly.

Yeon-Wook Jung Yong-Gwan Jung jyw11@donga.com yongari@donga.com