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Lee Jae-oh likely to quit Cabinet

Minister for Special Affairs Lee Jae-oh is likely to quit his Cabinet post next month and return to party politics, sources close to him said Friday.

“Minister Lee has long before made up his mind about departure from the Cabinet,” Yonhap News quoted an unidentified source at the ruling camp as saying.

“I understand he plans to tender his resignation around Aug. 15, by which the parliament’s confirmation process for nominees for justice minister and chief prosecutor is expected to finish,” the source said.

The comeback of Lee, widely thought of as President Lee Myung-bak’s right-hand man, to the governing Grand National Party will give a much-needed boost to the faction of GNP members loyal to the president, political observers said.

The pro-Lee faction has been in rivalry with a group supportive of Park Geun-hye, Lee’s archrival in the 2007 presidential nomination race and now leading candidate for the next presidency.

The party’s leadership vote earlier this month revealed that the balance of power within the GNP has been tipped in favor of Park. While a neutral figure, Rep. Hong Joon-pyo, was elected as party chairman, Rep. Yoo Seung-min, a close aide of Park, garnered the second-largest number of votes. Politicians belonging to the pro-Lee faction came in third and fourth.

Lee Jae-oh, a four-term lawmaker, has been a power broker in the conservative bloc. He spearheaded the 2007 primary campaign for President Lee, who defeated Park, to win the GNP presidential ticket. The president appointed him as minister for special affairs last August.

By Lee Sun-young (