Park nominates former aide as new finance minister [2016/01/06 10:20]

President Park Geun-hye tapped Saenuri Party Rep. Yoo Il-ho to lead the Ministry of Strategy and Finance and double as deputy prime minister in charge of economic affairs, in a Cabinet reshuffle that affected six high-level posts, Cheong WaDae said Monday.

Park also named Lee Joon-sik, former vice president of Seoul National University, as the education minister and deputy prime minister in charge of social affairs. For the post of the interior minister, the president designated Hong Yoon-sik, who formerly served as deputy chief of the Office for Government Policy Coordination. She named JooHyung-hwan, vice minister of strategy and finance, as minister of trade, industry and energy.

Saenuri Party Rep. Kang Eun-hee was tapped to lead the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. The president also appointed lawyer Seong Young-hun to lead the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission. Ministerial posts do not require parliamentary approval, but they go through legislative hearing sessions.

The Cabinet shakeup was conducted after the five outgoing ministers expressed their intentions to run for parliamentary elections slated for next April. Finance Minister nominee Yoo will replace Choi Kyung-hwan, a third-term lawmaker and one of Park’s most entrusted aides. Once back in the Assembly, Choi is expected to lead the pro-Park faction and hold sway in the party’s nomination process against the current party chairman Rep. Kim Moo-sung.

The reshuffle was widely anticipated ahead of the April 13 general elections, in which many of Park’s key associates plan to run on the ruling party ticket. The opposition parties had been criticizing the en masse crossover as hurting the administration’s stability and credibility. From Cheong WaDae alone, some 20 former presidential secretaries and staff have quit to run in the parliamentary race.

Touting Yoo’s ample experience and expertise in the finance sector, Cheong WaDae said he is “well fit” to lead the government’s projects for economic reform and revitalization. “We think that Yoo is the right person to successfully lead the government’s economic revitalization policy given his expertise in economic policy and real economy, and political finesse,” Kim Sung-woo, senior presidential secretary for public relations, told reporters.

Upon his designation, Yoo warned of the “serious” economic situation facing the country, saying there are some points of similarities compared to the time of the foreign exchange crisis in 1997. “We must take preemptive measures,” he told reporters after his nomination was announced. He added that he will be maintaining the policy directions set by his predecessor for consistency, an element that the government sees as crucial for propelling its current reform drive.

While pledging the upmost efforts to urge the legislature to quickly pass pending bills concerning economic revitalization, structural reform and labor reform, Yoo also said he would place “top priority” on economic structural reform. Yoo acted as minister of land, infrastructure and transport for eight months until October.

The economist-turned-politician with expertise in tax and finance served in various positions including the head of the Korea Institute of Public Finance. Yoo was Park’s chief secretary upon her election in 2012 as president.

Referring to the nominee for the education minister, the presidential press secretary said Lee is well suited to play a central role in addressing a variety of social issues facing the country. “Lee, with a deep understanding of the education scene, is suited for leading our education system in the right direction and spearheading the educational reform that our times call for,” Kim told reporters.

Lee was formerly a vice president of Seoul National University and a professor at the SNU School of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering. He is currently a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on Science and Technology.

Kang, the nominee for the minister of gender equality and family, pledged to focus attention on boosting women’s employment and addressing the issues surrounding the country’s low birthrate.

“In a sense, the issues of women’s career disruption (due to family responsibilities) and revitalization of women’s employment are connected to the issue of the low birthrate,” she told reporters. “I will push to effectively address them in tandem with related government agencies.” She previously served as the chairwoman of the Korea IT Business Women’s Association and Saenuri Party’s deputy floor leader.
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