President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday withdrew her nomination of embattled Education Minister-designate Kim Myung-soo and named Rep. Hwang Woo-yea, former chairman of the ruling Saenuri Party, as his replacement.
“President Park has withdrawn her nomination of Kim Myung-soo as education minister. The president appointed Rep. Hwang Woo-yea of the Saenuri Party as the new education minister,” presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook said.
The president also appointed Lee Sung-ho, former president of Korea National Defense University, to replace a second vice public administration minister who resigned in the wake of the Sewol disaster, while Chung Jin-cheol, former head of the Multifunctional Administrative City Construction Agency, was named the presidential secretary for the newly established office for personnel management.
Park’s announcement came amid mounting political pressure on her to withdraw the nominations of the three designates who have failed to get parliamentary endorsement.
Previous Education Minister nominee Kim had come under fire for a series of allegations including plagiarism, while Chung Sung-keun, the culture minister nominee, was blasted for his record of drunken driving. Chong Jong-sup, the public administration minister nominee, has been accused of making speculative real estate investments and receiving preferential treatment while serving in the Army.
While calling off Kim’s nomination, Park once again requested that the National Assembly endorse her appointments of the two remaining Cabinet members.
The move was widely seen as an effort to push ahead with the appointments of the two controversial nominees despite fierce resistance from the main opposition party over their ethical lapses and other alleged wrongdoings.
By law, the president can ask the National Assembly to confirm her appointment again if the confirmation report is not approved 20 days after it was submitted to the parliament. From that moment on the president can go ahead and confirm the nominee to the post regardless of the parliamentary decision.
President Park said Monday she would launch a new Cabinet this week.
If Park were to stick with her choices, however, it would likely strain ties with the opposition party and be a step back from her recent reconciliatory approach.
During a rare meeting with the opposition party’s floor leader Rep. Park Young-sun last week, Park said she would “consider” her demand to withdraw her nominations of Kim and Chung.
The New Politics Alliance for Democracy lashed out at Park for pressing ahead with the nominations.
“The president pushing ahead with the appointment of a disqualified nominee is an affront to the people,” said NPAD spokesman Rep. Park Beom-kye.
On Park’s appointment of Hwang as the new education minister, the opposition lawmaker vowed to conduct a thorough screening process.
Park’s choice of Rep. Hwang as the new education minister was also seen as an attempt to tighten her grip on state management in the aftermath of the ferry tragedy. Hwang, a judge-turned-politician, is a member of the pro-Park faction within the Saenuri Party. The 67-year-old political heavyweight is likely to win parliamentary endorsement more easily than Kim, a former education professor who had no political experience or networks.
If Hwang gets parliamentary approval, Park will have two of her closest political aides in her new Cabinet. Park carried out an extensive Cabinet shake-up last month, replacing eight ministers, including naming Choi Kyung-hwan, former floor leader of the Saenuri Party, as the new finance minister. Both the ministers of finance and education will also serve as deputy prime ministers. In her government reorganization plan, Park said she will have the new education chief supervise general social issues in the wake of the Sewol disaster.
Later in the afternoon, Hwang told reporters that his biggest task as the new minister will be resolving lingering problems and dispelling parents’ concerns over the safety of their children.
By Cho Chung-un (email@example.com