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Cabinet Shakeup Aggravates Uri Party

Posted July. 03, 2006 03:28,   


The Uri Party’s internal concerns are deepening by Cheong Wa Dae’s sudden plans to reshuffle the cabinet.

The Uri Party’s anguish comes from being excluded from the process and details until the nomination of Kwon O-kyu as Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Economy and Kim Byung-jun as Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Education and Human Resources was announced by Cheong Wa Dae on June 30.

They are taking very seriously the fact that on June 29 President Roh had dinner with Uri Party leadership, including Chairman Kim Geun-tae, but did not mention anything about replacing ministers, but made the announcement the following day. A key official of Uri Party said, “Until a day ago the party thought there would be no reshuffle. The party was completely excluded from the process of this reshuffle.”

In particular, many officials are expressing discontent over details of the reshuffle. The main reason is that the newly nominated ministers are far from characters that the public wants. There is explicit discontent over the nomination of former chief presidential secretary for national policy Kim Byung-jun, who caused controversy by making statements, such as, “The real tax bomb is yet to come,” for minister of education, in that close associates of the president are being fully advanced to the upper ranks.

A first-term Uri Party lawmaker commented, “Promoting a person that drafted controversial real estate policies and caused public opinion to turn negative by hard-line statements is the same as saying to Uri Party that the policies will be implemented by close aids while Uri Party can just stand by and watch.” Another newly elected Uri Party lawmaker stated, “Former Secretary Kim’s nomination is a direct counteraction to the public’s resistance to taxation. There are more than a few voices within the party arguing that Prime Minister Han should coordinate issues in the process of approving the nomination.”

A party official expressed his discontent, “The recent reshuffle is intended to emphasize that the president, not the party, has authority over nominations, and officially make the party like a dummy.”

However, Uri Party lawmakers are still refraining from openly expressing discontent over the nominations. That is because at least superficially, this reshuffle reflected the party’s position that gaining public support would be infeasible without reprimanding those responsible for issues such as real estate tax bombs and wandering education policy. There are also those having the slight hope that Uri Party’s discontent over former Secretary Kim will be heard, and his appointment might be cancelled in the last part of the process.

Additionally, the party itself has to focus in rearranging its inner echelons so currently it does not have the ability to charge on President Roh. Regarding future changes in the political arena, an atmosphere where Uri Party lawmakers are seeking ways for their own survival is being created. In particular, lawmakers are focusing on President Roh’s comments made on the June 29 Chung Wa Dae dinner where he said, “I will not renounce from the party. Just because the party is undergoing hardship, I cannot just jump off from a navigating ship. I will find a presidential candidate by navigating well.”

A second-term lawmaker from the Seoul Metropolitan area stated, “The president’s will is firm when the President Roh’s statement of not renouncing from the party is linked with the recent reshuffle that seems to go against the wish of the public. The president will go his own way, and those who do not like it can leave the party.”

There are views that the ruling party’s discussions to change the political arena, or creating an “Anti-Grand National Party United Front,” are not gaining momentum because it looks like regression to past politics, and it incites President Roh to play hardball tactics.

Yeon-Wook Jung jin0619@donga.com jyw11@donga.com