Go to contents

Finance Minister Faces Heavy Pressure to Quit

Posted July. 10, 2008 08:44,   


Strategy and Finance Minister Kang Man-soo might have kept his job in this week’s Cabinet reshuffle, but is still under heavy pressure to resign.

With rumors spreading that Vice Finance Minister Choi Joong-kyung was dismissed instead of Kang, the opposition as well as the ruling Grand National Party is urging Kang’s dismissal.

○ `Deputy took fall for minister’

The main opposition Democratic Party will submit to the National Assembly next week a motion to dismiss Kang.

Democratic Party Chairman Chung Sye-kyun told a meeting of the party`s decision-making council yesterday, “To meet public demand, we are planning to submit a motion to oust the finance minister.”

Chung expressed discontent over the Cabinet shakeup, saying, “The reshuffle exhibited serious flaws. Finance Minister Kang should be held responsible for his failed exchange rate and unsophisticated economic policies, resulting in the economy going in the wrong direction.”

“Against this backdrop, it is hard to understand why the vice finance minister was dismissed instead of Kang.”

Song Young-gil, a member of the DP’s Supreme Council, said, “Our request for Kang’s resignation wasn’t politically motivated, but to gain market confidence.”

Aiming to continue its initiative seized in the controversy over the resumption of U.S. beef imports, the DP is likely to utilize its dismissal motion against Kang as a catalyst for its attacks on the ruling party.

Under the Constitution, the dismissal of a Cabinet minister can be proposed by a third of parliamentary members. It requires a quorum of more than half of lawmakers for approval. Since the DP holds 81 of the 299 seats in the National Assembly, something short of the legal requirement, the party is expected to cooperate with minor parties such as the conservative Liberty Forward Party (18 seats), the progressive Democratic Labor Party (five) and the Renewal of Korea Party (two).

The LFP could join hands with the DP because the conservative party has said, “We have no differing opinion on Kang’s resignation, but his resignation alone is meaningless in that the whole Cabinet should take responsibility and be reshuffled, including Prime Minister Han Seung-soo.”

○ Ruling party also frowns on Kang

Though the ruling GNP officially blamed the dismissal motion as a political witch-hunt, few of its members have defended Kang.

Party spokeswoman Cho Yoon-sun criticized the DP, saying, “Everyone knows Kang’s dismissal will not improve our difficult economic situation. As the major opposition party, the DP should offer more plausible alternatives rather than repeating its demand. It should stop all improper political aggression.”

GNP Supreme Council member Gong Sung-jin, however, expressed in a radio interview his discontent over Kang. “(Kang’s retention) is something the nation can hardly understand,” Gong said. “His ‘747’ economic policy pledged seven percent annual growth, per capita income of 40,000 dollars within a decade, and making Korea the world`s seventh largest economy.”

“But economic policies have all focused on stabilizing inflation. This is regrettable given that our economic hardship requires more prudent and appropriate leadership.”

More GNP members are also warning that Kang staying in office could trigger another conflict with the opposition in the wake of the mad cow scare.

A two-term ruling party lawmaker in the Gyeongsang provinces said, “Kang should have been replaced since he lost the confidence of the public and economic circles. It is hard to figure out why the president made such a move in the reshuffle.”

Seemingly aware of the subtle opposition emerging within the party, GNP floor leader Hong Joon-pyo said, “When parliament resumes, the finance minister will have a hard time in National Assembly sessions.”

The ruling party is expected to oppose the dismissal motion when it reaches the parliamentary floor, but many experts predict the GNP will face difficulty regaining trust due to Kang’s retention.

For this reason, certain DP members say that if they defeat GNP members one by one, chances are good that the motion to fire Kang will succeed.

jkmas@donga.com koh@donga.com