DP calls for Cabinet reshuffle

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Feb 7, 2014 - 20:28
  • Updated : Feb 7, 2014 - 20:28
The main opposition Democratic Party on Friday demanded President Park Geun-hye replace her ministers and secretaries amid growing criticism over their poor performance and controversial remarks.

On Thursday evening, President Park fired Minister of Oceans and Fisheries Yoon Jin-sook for her inappropriate comments and gesture regarding a massive oil spill in Yeosu, South Jeolla Province.

While inspecting the accident site, Yoon was seen covering her nose to avoid smelling the spill and said she thought that GS Caltex, owner of the facility from which the oil leaked, was a primary victim. Yoon’s comment that put the lives of the people in the affected area beneath the company, drew fire from all sides, including the ruling Saenuri Party. The dismissal of Yoon came shortly after Prime Minister Chung Hong-won requested that Park remove her. Yoon is the second minister to leave office, but is the first to be sacked by the president. In September, former Health and Welfare Minister Chin Young offered to resign, citing troubles with Cheong Wa Dae over the basic pension scheme.

DP floor leader Jun Byung-hun said Park’s dismissal of Yoon was not enough and that the president should replace the ministers of finance, education and justice, saying they were “incompetent” and “lost the public’s trust.”

The DP filed two separate motions to the parliament calling for the dismissal of Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn and Education Minister Seo Nam-soo.

“The problem does not end with dismissing one minister,” Jun said at a supreme council meeting held by the party.

“Not only Education Minister Seo Nam-soo, who degraded himself as the guardian of controversial history textbooks, and but also Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok, who has put the nation in crisis with the massive data leak and economic breakdown, has lost public confidence,” he said. The party would consider filing another motion to replace the finance minister later, he added.

The dismissal motions filed by the opposition party are seen as a symbolic move to draw public attention to the issue. It is quite difficult for the DP to get parliamentary approval as the motions require a majority vote. Currently, the ruling Saenuri party holds 155 seats in the 300-member National Assembly.

Jun lashed out at Justice Minister Hwang and presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-choon and called for their resignations, saying they played a key role in downsizing the prosecution’s investigation into the allegations over election meddling in the 2012 presidential campaign.

“From Minister Hwang, who deteriorated the ministry into an unlawful and unjust execution branch, to presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-choon, known as the guardian of a cover-up of the illegal presidential election, the Park Geun-hye government has lost the confidence of the people over its personnel appointment,” Jun said.

The DP also said it is difficult to accept a court ruling that acquitted former Seoul police chief Kim Yong-pan of charges of scaling back the results of a police investigation into the election meddling.

DP chairman Kim Han-gil said at the same meeting that the ruling shows how the court could be controlled by the governing forces and demanded a special independent probe into the case.

The removal of the maritime minister was widely seen as Cheong Wa Dae hurrying to settle public sentiment agitated by officials’ repeated gaffes. Not only Yoon, Finance Minister Hyun came under fire last month after he blamed credit card holders for not taking caution when providing their personal information. The president had warned officials that making such comments “hurt the people.”

The former researcher with no political background has been stirring controversy over her insincere attitude and foolish remarks ever since she was appointed as minister last year. When asked about her controversial remarks in a recent TV interview, Yoon said the reports came out because she was a popular person.

Yoon was appointed to lead the fisheries ministry, which Park re-established under her government reorganization plan.

Park had called her “a pearl in the sand,” praising her expertise in maritime affairs when the opposition parties raised questions about her and refused to agree with the appointment. The two reportedly met when Yoon was lobbying lawmakers to revive the maritime ministry, abolished by then-president Lee Myung-bak.

By Cho Chung-un (