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Reshuffle of Cabinet and Presidential Aides Taking Shape

Reshuffle of Cabinet and Presidential Aides Taking Shape

Posted June. 17, 2008 20:55,   


President Lee Myung-bak’s reshuffle plan is taking shape.

The qualifications of five candidates for prime minister and three for presidential chief of staff have already begun to be reviewed. The number of ministers and senior presidential offices to be replaced is expected to be three, respectively.

“Though the replacements of the prime minister and the presidential chief of staff have yet to be confirmed, our personnel and verification teams have begun to screen the qualifications of the candidates,” a Cheong Wa Dae official said on Friday.

The two teams have been looking into the qualifications of candidates recommended to the president from various circles. The presidential civil office and National Intelligence Service are reportedly providing background on the candidates.

▽ Candidates for prime minister

Sim Dae-pyung, the head of the Liberty Forward Party, is considered a strong contender for the country’s second top post. Kang Hyun-wook, former governor of North Jeolla Province, Lee Won-jong, former governor of South Chungcheong Province, former Grand National Party Chairwoman Park Geun-hye and incumbent GNP Chairman Kang Jae-sup are also nominees.

Political analysts say that Shim, known for his outstanding administrative capability, may exert as powerful an influence as Park on breaking the current political deadlock.

Lee privately met Shim on a number of occasions to ask him to work as the head of his Cabinet at the beginning of the year when Lee was presidential-elect. This shows how highly the president regarded Shim.

Shim’s appointment as prime minister will help shattered conservative forces unify, and lead the GNP to a landslide victory in the 2010 local elections by gaining more votes from the Chungcheong Provinces. In addition, it can also spark a political realignment as the LFP may not only form a political alliance, but also merge with the GNP. If the merger takes place, the total number of conservative seats in the National Assembly will surpass 180, allowing the president to push his polices effectively.

Some believe that Shim will be competent as prime minister since he has excellent judgment on political affairs.

However, the first thing that has to be done before hiring Shim will be to restore trust between the president and LFP leader Lee Hoi-chang. If Lee Hoi-chang does not support Shim’s appointment as prime minister, Shim will be reluctant to take the position. If Shim accepts the post despite Lee Hoi-chang’s opposition, he will lose a great deal of his influence.

Former Governor Kang is considered an ideal candidate for regional balance as he has a strong support base in the southwestern region, while the president and the ruling GNP have a strong support base in the capital area and the southeastern region, respectively. Kang is known as one of the few people who thoroughly understand the president’s policy vision. He led the task force for the Saemangeum tideland reclamation project when he was a member of the presidential transition committee.

Former Governor Lee from North Chungcheong Province is also regarded as an ideal candidate for promoting regional balance and national unity. Given that he has broad experience as an administrator, he will likely excel at practical matters.

Former GNP Chairwoman Park is seen as a “big card” that will not only strengthen unity within the party, but also muster pan-conservative forces. However, the chance of Park’s appointment is slim due to strong distrust between her and the president.

The biggest strength of Chairman Kang is his extensive experience in political matters.

▽ Candidates for presidential chief of staff

Former Minister of Commerce, Industry and Energy Yoon Jin-sik and former lawmakers Yoon Yeo-joon and Maeng Hyung-kyu are candidates for presidential chief of staff.

Yoon, who is currently the president of the Korea Investment Holdings Co, is the strongest contender as he was one of the leading candidates for the position in the first reshuffle of the Lee administration. He is regarded as a suitable figure to support the president’s economic revival policies as he has rich experience in working for economy-related ministries. Yoon’s weakness is lack of political experience.

Rep. Maeng gained the president’s trust while serving as a senior member of the policy coordination sub-committee of the presidential transition committee. He was also mentioned as a candidate for presidential chief of staff at that time.

Rep. Yoon is known as one of the GNP’s top strategists. Although he is good at handling political affairs, he lacks a fresh image along with Maeng.

The number of ministers and senior presidential officials to be replaced has been narrowed down to three, respectively.

The replacements of the Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries minister and the Health, Welfare and Family Affairs minister have virtually been decided. Strategy and Finance Minister Kang Man-su and Education, Science and Technology Minister Kim Do-yeon are also rumored to be subject of the shakeup. However, some insiders say that Kang will likely remain in his post.

The senior presidential secretaries for political affairs, economic affairs, and foreign and national security affairs have also been mentioned to be replaced. The senior presidential secretary for civil affairs was expected to be subject of the reshuffle, but will likely remain in his post, given that the president recently put him in charge of drawing the future political landscape.