Member of President Roh Moo-hyun's Former Government Tapped as New Prime Minister

Member of President Roh Moo-hyun's Former Government Tapped as New Prime Minister

SEOUL, Nov. 2 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye on Wednesday tapped Kim Byong-joon, who served as policy advisor to late President Roh Moo-hyun as new prime minister in a reshuffle aimed at placating mounting public anger over an influence-peddling scandal involving her close confidante. Former President Roh is a liberal figure who is still admired by those in the opposition.

The prime minister-designate, currently a public administration professor at Seoul-based Kookmin University, served as a senior policy aide to the liberal president who ran the country from 2003-2008.

"To meet the demands from political circles for a neutral Cabinet, (Park) designated professor Kim who served as a policy chief under the Participatory (Roh) Government," a presidential official said, declining to be identified. Kim also held the Cabinet post of deputy prime minister for education.

The 62-year-old, who graduated from Yeungnam University in southern South Korea, has served as a professor at Kookmin University in Seoul since 1986. He worked in various public and nongovernmental organizations as a policy adviser.

The prime minister nominee has been an advocate of decentralization of power, and sought balanced development among different provinces of the country.

Kim joined Roh's election campaign in 2002 and oversaw key policies pushed forward by the administration. He then held the post of education minister.

Roh, who led the country from 2003 to 2008, killed himself in May 2009, expressing emotional stress over a months-long corruption probe involving his immediate family.

Political pundits said Park considered Kim's connection with Roh in an effort to appeal to the opposition bloc. He is viewed by many as being neutral in his political affiliations.

Kim is anticipated to lead key state affairs, amid the rising public's discontent against President Park Geun-hye, who has been criticized for allegedly letting her close confidante meddle in state affairs.'

In the latest shake-up, Park Seung-joo, who served as vice minister at the gender ministry under the Roh administration, was named to head the Ministry of Public Safety and Security based on Kim's recommendation.

Park also tapped Yim Jong-yong, head of the Financial Services Commission, as the new finance minister, a post that doubles as deputy prime minister for economic affairs.

The reshuffle came amid mounting fears over a possible administrative vacuum with Park's leadership seriously damaged by the swirling political scandal that has prompted nationwide calls for her resignation or impeachment.

At the center of the massive scandal is Choi Soon-sil, whom critics portray as the "eminence grise" of the Park administration.

Choi is alleged to have used her decades-long ties to the president to meddle in state affairs, particularly presidential matters such as Park's wardrobe, public speeches and even the selection of presidential secretaries.

The 60-year-old woman is also suspected of having peddled undue influence in the creation and operation of two nonprofit foundations, dedicated to promoting Korean culture and sports, and of having misappropriated money from these foundations.

In the wake of the scandal, a recent poll showed Park's approval ratings plunging to a woeful single digit.'

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