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Lee Conflicted Over Senior Secretary Posts

Posted February. 05, 2008 03:01,   


President-elect Lee Myung-bak is facing challenges in selecting his senior secretaries.

Lee’s spokesman Joo Ho-young said Monday, “The announcement is not likely to happen tomorrow (Feb. 5). It will be possible on Feb. 10 at the earliest.”

Asked whether the appointment was made except for a few posts, he indicated that the decision could be altered until the announcement, saying, “If there are better people, we can change again.”

Lee has been postponing the appointment of his senior secretaries, from before the Lunar New Year’s holiday to afterwards, and also changing his minds on strong candidates because he has not found the so-called “best of the best” for available posts. With a limited number of qualified candidates, Lee has no choice but to pass them to one post to another to come up with a perfect combination, leading to changes in nomination. To make matters worse, Lee has reportedly told the transition committee to even risk leaving the posts vacant until it finds perfect successors.

▽ Fixed Candidates

Still, there are figures who are always mentioned as candidates for senior secretary posts. They include Kwak Seung-joon, a Korea University professor and member of the planning and coordination division under the presidential transition committee, Park Jae-wan, head of the government reform task force team under the committee, Lee Jong-chan, a former chief prosecutor of Seoul Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, and Lee Joo-ho, a member of society, education, and culture division of the committee.

As of Feb. 4, Kwak is likely to become a senior secretary for administrative coordination. He is also regarded as a candidate for deputy minister of the economy-related ministry. Sources say the president-elect has trust in Kwak that he would handle any of the two roles without difficulty. Some of Lee’s close aides say that Kwak will manage to do his job even if he’s posted to the presidential security team, which is not related to his expertise.

Park was once regarded as a candidate for senior secretary for administrative planning, but now he is more likely to be put in charge of the president’s social policies. Rumor has it that Park might not head for Cheong Wa Dae since his former boss, Grand National Party leader Kang Jae-sup, cherishes him so much. There are also variable factors that can change the situation. Lee reportedly wants to nominate a female senior secretary for social policies. He has asked his staff to find female candidates recently. This implies that if Lee finds an appropriate female candidate, the lineup can again change.

Lee Jong-chan and Lee Joo-ho have been unofficially decided as senior secretaries for civil government and human resources, science, and culture, respectively. Lee Dong-gwan, spokesman of the transition committee, is expected to become presidential spokesman.

▽ Undecided Candidates

Senior secretaries for state affairs, economy, and diplomacy and security are not decided yet. Lee’s close aides say that for the president-elect is carefully considering an appropriate person for the job of state affairs because it involves dealing with many politicians. If he cannot find the right man for the job, he is likely to leave the post empty until the end of general elections. As of now, Kim In-gyu, press secretary of Lee’s secretariat, Park Yeong-joon, head of Lee’s secretariat, and Lee Chun-sik, a former Seoul deputy major of state affairs, are on the list.

New faces are being examined for senior secretary for economy. Hallym University President Kim Choong-soo, also a former head of the Korea Development Institute, and Kim Jeong-soo, head of the Joongang Ilbo Economic Research Institute, are mentioned as possible dark horses. Lee has reportedly been considering selecting an unexpected person for the senior secretary post for economy.

Kim Byeong-gook, a Korea University professor, is now considered for senior secretary for diplomacy and security. Kim, a Harvard graduate, is preferred, because the president-elect can be free from criticism that he favored certain university graduates in his nomination.