South Korean president replaces five Cabinet ministers
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – President Kim Dae-jung named five new Cabinet ministers Friday in a political shakeup stemming from discontent over his North Korea policy.
Those replaced included Unification Minister Lim Dong-won, who was in charge of the so-called ”sunshine” policy of trying to engage the communist North.
Lim was replaced by Hong Soon-young, a former foreign minister who became ambassador to China last year, the presidential office announced. A career diplomat, 64-year-old Hong was also ambassador to Russia and Germany.
Kim also replaced the ministers of agriculture, labor, maritime affairs, and construction and transportation.
”The shakeup is to seek stability of state affairs and continue reform policies,” said Park Joon-young, chief presidential spokesman.
The entire 22-member Cabinet offered to quit earlier this week after a National Assembly vote to dismiss Lim, who had been accused of being too lenient toward the North.
The president got a boost Thursday when North Korea agreed to a South Korean proposal to resume talks Sept. 15-18 in Seoul. Talks had broken down in March because of tension between the North and the United States, the South’s main ally.
Many South Koreans agree the government should pursue reconciliation with the North, but critics say the president has given aid and made other concessions while getting little in return. Kim has said he will stick to his engagement policy.
Kim kept the economic team that has been steering South Korea through a fitful reform process in the wake of the 1997-98 Asian currency crisis.
Three of the ministers who were replaced were United Liberal Democrats, a small party that broke up a coalition with the ruling party by siding with the opposition in the vote against Lim.
Kim Dong-tae, a former vice agriculture minister, was named to head the ministry of agriculture and forestry. Ahn Jung-nam, the chief government tax official, was appointed minister of construction and transportation.
Two ruling party legislators, Yoo Yong-tae and Yoo Sam-nam, were ordered to head the labor and maritime affairs ministries, respectively.
Prime Minister Lee Han-dong, a member of the United Liberal Democrats, agreed to stay in office at Kim’s request.
Local media reported that the president’s chief of staff, Han Gwang-ok, would be named the new chairman of the ruling Millennium Democratic Party. Han was a longtime supporter of Kim during his years as an opposition leader under past authoritarian governments.
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