President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday carried out a partial Cabinet reshuffle, replacing three ministers and four vice-ministerial officials, to tighten her grip on state affairs during the remaining 18 months of her term.
But the personnel list drew a sour response from political circles. They cited the president’s apparent partiality for close aides, and the failure to dismiss a senior presidential secretary accused of irregularities.
Cho Yoon-sun, former minister of gender equality and president secretary for political affairs, was tapped as minister of culture, sports and tourism.
Kim Jae-su, CEO of the state-run Korea Agro-Fisheries and Food Trade Corp., was picked as minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, while Cho Kyeung-kyu, deputy chief of the prime ministerial Office for Government Policy Coordination, was tapped as environment minister.
“(Culture Minister) nominee Cho has an intimate knowledge of culture and arts, and thoroughly understands the president’s statecraft philosophy, having served as (ruling Saenuri Party) lawmaker, minister and presidential secretary,” senior presidential secretary for public affairs Kim Sung-woo told reporters.
Cho is to replace Kim Jong-deok, who has been in office since August 2014.
For the other Cabinet positions, the president chose from senior government officials with experience in their given field.
New Agriculture Minister Kim, replacing Lee Dong-phil, is considered an expert in agricultural policy, having served in the ministry’s key posts over the past 30 years.
President Park Geun-hye (Yonhap)
“Kim is the right person to foster the nation’s agriculture and livestock industries and revitalize the rural economy, based on his ample experience,” the presidential secretary said.
Cho Kyeung-kyu, a longtime expert in economic and state policy coordination, is to head the Environment Ministry amid recent series of environmental agenda such as fine dust, humidifier disinfectant harms and diesel car emission scandals.
“Cho is expected to achieve harmonious communication with other government departments on key environmental issues such as climate change and fine dust,” Cheong Wa Dae said.
The president also appointed four vice-ministerial officials.
Replacing Cho Kyeung-kyu in the Office for Government Policy Coordination, Park named Noh Hyeong-ouk, senior official at the ministry of strategy and finance.
Jeong Marn-ki, presidential secretary for trade, industry and energy, was appointed vice minister of trade, industry and energy.
Former senior prosecutor Park Kyeong-ho and presidential secretary for agriculture, livestock and food Chung Hwang-keun were respectively picked as vice chief of the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission and head of the Rural Development Administration.
Following the Blue House’s announcement, opposition parties immediately voiced their disapproval over the shake-up, reiterating their call for the dismissal of Woo Byung-woo, the senior presidential secretary for political affairs.
“It is incomprehensible how a person involved in a number of irregularity disputes could qualify as a key government official,” said Rep. Park Kwang-on, spokesperson of The Minjoo Party of Korea, in a briefing.
“We suspect that the reshuffle was but a pretense to dodge the public’s call for more fundamental state reform.”
The disputed presidential aide came under fire last month for his monetary connection to a senior prosecutor who was arrested in a corruption scandal, as well as his alleged influence-peddling over his son’s military post.
Despite the elevating dissent from opposition circles and concerns from within the ruling party, however, the president reiterated her trust upon the aide, refusing to dismiss him right away.
By Bae Hyun-jung/The Korea Herald (email@example.com