President Park Partially Reshuffles Top Aides amid Public Uproar over Choi Soon-sil Scandal

President Park Partially Reshuffles Top Aides amid Public Uproar over Choi Soon-sil Scandal

SEOUL, Oct. 30 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye on Sunday carried out a partial reshuffle of her secretariat in a move to assuage growing public anger over a burgeoning influence-peddling scandal involving her longtime confidante.

In the latest shakeup, Park appointed Choi Jai-kyeong, a former prosecutor, as her new senior secretary for civil affairs, while naming Bae Sung-rye, a former National Assembly spokesperson, as her chief secretary for public affairs.

The embattled leader also accepted resignations tendered by her three aides Lee Jae-man, Jeong Ho-seong and Ahn Bong-geun who served as the presidential secretaries for administrative affairs, private presidential affairs and public relations, respectively.

The trio -- among Park's most trusted aides -- have been under mounting pressure to step aside for their alleged links to the latest scandal involving Choi Soon-sil that has sent Park's approval ratings into the woeful 10-percent range and triggered calls for her resignation and even impeachment. There have also been anti-Park rallies in universities and some cities across the country.

Presidential spokesman Jung Youn-kuk said Park had accepted resignations tendered by her chief of staff Lee Won-jong, and also An Chong-bum, Kim Jae-won, Woo Byung-woo and Kim Sung-woo who are her senior secretaries for policy coordination, political affairs, civil affairs and public affairs, respectively.

On Friday, Park directed all of her top secretaries to submit their resignations en masse, hours after she held talks with ruling Saenuri Party leader Lee Jung-hyun, who called for a prompt personnel reshuffle. 

"As she is deeply cognizant of the gravity of the current situation, President Park has decided to conduct a shakeup of the presidential secretariat to meet the demands from various walks of life for a personnel revamp," Jung told reporters.'

Jung added that in due consideration of the current situation, Park approved resignations from five of the 11 top secretaries, including the chief of staff.

The chief executive will soon carry out a reshuffle of other vacant positions in her secretariat, Jung said.

Choi, Park's incoming chief secretary for civil affairs, is noted for his extensive experience in criminal investigations. Before leaving the prosecution in 2014, he had served in various senior posts, including one at the Supreme Prosecutors' Office and in provincial offices in Incheon, Daegu and Jeonju.

Bae, the new senior secretary for public affairs, is known to be well-versed in the field of publicity and getting information out to the people. He formerly worked as a reporter at local broadcaster KBS and as a managerial officer at another broadcaster, SBS.

Meanwhile, Second Vice Culture Minister Kim Chong, who has also been alleged to be involved in the corruption scandal swirling around Choi Soon-sil, has also tendered his resignation to the president.

Kim told Yonhap News Agency over the phone that in the current situation he found it difficult to carry out his official duties.

The latest scandal involving what critics call the "shadow president" has sent shock waves through the nation.

Choi, at the center of the scandal, is suspected of using her decades-long ties to Park to meddle in state affairs and peddle influence in the creation and operation of two nonprofit foundations.

Choi, in particular, drew public outrage as she is alleged to have received and edited important presidential speeches, including some related to sensitive policy issues, although she did not have any government post or security clearance.

Last week, Park admitted she sought Choi's opinions of her speeches during her presidential campaign in 2012 and the early part of her presidency.

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