President Lee Myung-bak told the newly-elected leadership of the ruling Grand National Party over lunch on Wednesday that he will discuss with them before nominating the new justice minister and the prosecutor-general amid backlash from both ruling and opposition lawmakers against the president’s top candidate.
During his first official meeting with the new GNP leader Hong Joon-pyo and other members of the party’s decision-making Supreme Council, Lee said he will closely discuss with Hong and GNP floor leader Hwang Woo-yea before naming the designates, a senior Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters.
Lee is considering naming his top aide for civil affairs Kwon Jae-jin as the new justice minister to replace Lee Kwi-nam.
Lee made the remarks after Rep. Nam Kyung-pil, a member of the GNP’s Supreme Council, asked Lee to reconsider the nomination of Kwon, according to the newly-appointed party spokesperson Kim Gi-hyeon.
Lee asked the party’s leadership to make extra efforts for the success of micro-credit loan programs and vowed to have his government consult with the party before announcing state policies.
The president also pledged to offer full support for other international sport events in addition to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, such as this year’s International Association of Athletics Federation championship in Daegu, the spokesperson said.
GNP leader Hong said that the PyeongChang Olympic Games are to set a new ground in the inter-Korean ties and suggested that Cheong Wa Dae may have to consider a paradigm shift, party officials said.
A Cheong Wa Dae official, in the meantime, brushed off criticism against the idea of naming a senior presidential secretary as justice minister, saying it would be “nonsense” to forbid Cheong Wa Dae officials from entering the Cabinet.
“Wouldn’t it be a bit unfair to bar presidential aides from becoming ministers? I think (the criticism) is nonsense,” the Cheong Wa Dae official said.
“Both ministers and senior presidential secretaries are top aides to the president. In the U.S., both White House aides and government ministers are called ‘secretaries.’”
The official noted that the pool from which to pick the nominees has become smaller.
“Many of the eligible candidates have worked in law firms as lawyers after leaving judiciary or the prosecution, so we have to eliminate them in order to keep up with the ‘fair society’ campaign.”
As part of his “fair society” campaign, Lee has vowed to root out “jeon-gwan-ye-woo,” which refers to the widespread practice of judiciary officials giving favors to their former colleagues who are hired by private companies in exchange for their connections.
Chung Tong-ki, Lee’s chief state auditor nominee early this year, had to step down amid backlash from ruling and opposition parties that the former prosecutor who earned high salaries from a law firm and served as Lee’s aide was unfit for the job which required political neutrality.
By Kim So-hyun and Bae Hyun-jung