President-elect Park Geun-hye named six ministerial nominees, including former chief presidential secretary Yun Byung-se as foreign minister, in her second round of Cabinet appointments Wednesday.
Park also tapped former deputy commander of the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command Kim Byung-kwan to become her defense minister along with four others to join the new government, transition committee vice chairman Chin Young said at a press conference.
They include: Seo Nam-soo, president of Uiduk University as education minister; former senior prosecutor Hwang Kyo-an as justice minister; ruling Saenuri Party lawmaker Yoo Jeong-bok as public safety and administration minister; and dean of the Catholic University of Korea’s Hallyu Graduate School Yoo Jin-ryong as culture minister.
The earlier-than-anticipated nomination of Park’s foreign affairs and security team came after North Korea’s defiant third nuclear test the previous day. Initially, Park was expected to announce the members to her presidential office including the chief of staff.
The nominees are subject to parliamentary confirmation hearings.
“We will be announcing an additional Cabinet lineup once the verifications are completed and results come out about (the government reorganization plan discussed by the National Assembly,” Chin said. Eleven more minister-nominees are to be appointed along with the rest of the members to join the presidential office.
The incoming president’s appointment of her foreign affairs and defense ministers reflected the urgency of completing her security lineup following North Korea’s nuclear test. A unification minister, however, was not designated.
Yun and Kim, once confirmed, will be working with former defense minister Kim Jang-soo, who has been named to head the presidential office of national security to tackle the daunting task of dealing with North Korea with advanced nuclear and missile capabilities.
Watchers said Park’s choices reflect her preference for stable figures with expertise. All six would be returning to serve in the public sector.
Yun, currently a member of the transition committee’s foreign affairs, unification and defense team, has been Park’s long-time brain on foreign policy. A career diplomat, Yun is also one of the architects behind Park’s “trustpolitik,” a step-by-step strategy for North Korea.
Kim Byung-kwan, the former Army general, is known for his expertise on the Korea-U.S. defense alliance.
Seo worked at the Education Ministry for more than 20 years and has served as the vice education minister.
Justice minister-nominee Hwang is said to be committed to public security through his long years as a prosecutor, while Yoo Jeong-bok, a key pro-Park member, is a former administrator who served as agriculture minister in the incumbent government. Yoo Jin-ryong is also returning to the culture ministry in which he had been a vice minister.
Upon their appointments, the political parties expressed their intention to help speed up the confirmation process. The main opposition Democratic United Party, however, also indicated a thorough verification of the nominees by expressing regret over what it called a “conservative lineup lacking in a drive for change.”
“It appears that the designations prioritized stability, considering how all six are former bureaucrats. There is a need to verify whether these men can lead the flow of a time demanding change and innovation,” DUP floor spokesman Yoon Kwan-seok said.
Concerns have been raised over whether Park would manage to complete her government formation before the Feb. 25 inauguration. The National Assembly is still wrangling over the government reorganization bill. A confirmation hearing for Park’s prime minister-nominee Chung Hong-won is scheduled for Feb. 20-21.
By Lee Joo-hee