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Cabinet Appointment Angers Lawmakers

Posted January. 05, 2006 03:00,   


Despite protests from ruling Uri Party lawmakers, President Roh Moo-hyun pushed ahead with his cabinet reshuffle and nominated lawmaker Rhyu Si-min to head the Health and Welfare Ministry yesterday.

Two days earlier, Roh had delayed making a health minister nomination in his first cabinet reshuffle announcement and decided to meet with party leadership to listen to their opinions on January 5 in consideration of their opposition.

With the announcement of the appointment, however, the chasm between the presidential office and the ruling party has entered a new phase.

“If the ruling party and the presidential office split further and denounce each other, it will not be conducive to anybody,” said presidential personnel secretary Kim Wan-ki. “The president made this decision after due consideration based on the conclusion that it is desirable to put an end to the confrontation as early as possible.”

Jun Byung-hun, the spokesman of the ruling Uri Party, briefly commented on the appointment, saying, “The president exercised the presidential right of personnel management by considering diverse opinions in the party.” However, the majority of party members protested the decision saying they cannot understand it.”

Eighteen first-time and re-elected lawmakers, including Kim Young-choon, Lee Jong-kul, Ahn Young-keun, Cho Bae-sook, and Im Jong-in released a joint statement yesterday and said, “Making a politician a Cabinet member is a significant political action that can sway public trust in the president and the party. In this regard, today’s nomination of the health and welfare minister is regrettable.”

“The president’s authority to appoint ministers should be respected on a fundamental level. However, the cabinet reshuffle is indicative of the future direction of national policies, so the president should consider public opinion and the party,” they added. “Now is time to review the future of the party-government relationship from the root.”

However, they also proposed that lawmakers restrain themselves from emotional reactions and have orderly discussions about party-government relations.

As the opposition parties criticized the nomination as arbitrary and are ready to raise objections during the confirmation hearings, further controversy is likely to be aroused.

“President Roh showed self-complacency and arrogance. The only thing the president considered seemed to be his ‘code.’ The nomination is nonsense,” criticized Lee Kye-jin, a spokesman for the opposition Grand National Party.

“It is so ridiculous that I am almost speechless. To see the president have no consideration for the public, I am worried about this year,” said spokesman Yoo Jong-pil of the opposition Democratic Party. “The president is ignoring the public. We will reveal how inadequate lawmaker Rhyu is for the position through the confirmation hearings,” said Park Yong-jin, spokesman of the Democratic Labor Party.

Meanwhile, Rhyu said in an official statement distributed from the party spokesman’s office, “I am well aware of the criticism and concerns about me from opposition parties, some media, and part of the Uri Party. I humbly accept the criticism as a result of my unworthiness, but I will forget about all other things and will think, speak, and act only as the minister of health and welfare.”