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Lee installs new minister despite opposition protest

Overriding the main opposition party’s strong resistance, President Lee Myung-bak on Thursday pressed ahead with the appointment of his new knowledge economy minister.

Lee gave the letter of appointment to Choi Joong-kyung, a long-time financial bureaucrat, following a month of heated partisan strife over whether he is qualified for the post handling the government’s export and corporate policy.

Choi was nominated to the job on Dec. 31 in a partial Cabinet shake-up, with three-term lawmaker Choung Byoung-gug named as the culture minister.

The Democratic Party has called for the president to withdraw Choi’s nomination, citing his lack of expertise in the real economy and alleged property speculation by him and his family that was revealed during a parliamentary confirmation hearing.

The DP refused to adopt a formal report on the results of the hearing. But its attempt to block out Choi gained no further momentum as the appointment of a Cabinet member does not require parliamentary approval under South Korea’s law.
President Lee Myung-bak (left) gives a letter of appointment to Choi Joong-kyung after appointing him Minister of Knowledge Economy at Cheong Wa Dae on Thursday. (Chung Hee-cho/The Korea Herald)
President Lee Myung-bak (left) gives a letter of appointment to Choi Joong-kyung after appointing him Minister of Knowledge Economy at Cheong Wa Dae on Thursday. (Chung Hee-cho/The Korea Herald)

Lee’s appointment triggered an angry backlash from the DP.

“Naming the nominee opposed by 70 percent of the people, four major opposition parties, civic groups and considered unfit even by lawmakers of the ruling Grand National Party is going against the will of the people,“ Park Jie-won, floor leader of the DP, said during a party meeting, citing results of a recent survey by the party.

”The appointment of an unqualified candidate for the ministerial post will result in accelerating an early ‘lame duck’ of the Lee administration,“ Jeon Hyun-heui, spokeswoman of the party, told reporters. Lee still has two years left before his five-year term ends in February 2013.

Giving Choi the letter of appointment, the president told him to step up efforts to win contracts for the construction of nuclear power plants abroad and secure a stable supply of natural resources, according to presidential spokeswoman Kim Hee-jung.

Addressing the new culture minister during the ceremony, Lee stressed the importance of South Korea becoming a ”culture country“ in its goal of joining the club of advanced nations, she added.

”As both of you have expertise and experience (in the fields), I expect remarkable accomplishments,” the president was quoted as saying. (Yonhap News)
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