President Park Appoints New Chief of Staff & Senior Secretary, Opposition Party Ain't Buying It

President Park Appoints New Chief of Staff & Senior Secretary, Opposition Party Ain't Buying It

SEOUL, Nov. 3 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye on Thursday appointed her new chief of staff and a senior political adviser in a follow-up reshuffle of her top secretarial staff aimed at allaying seething public criticism over the growing corruption scandal involving her longtime confidante.

Park picked Han Gwang-ok, chairman of the Presidential Committee for National Cohesion, as her new chief of staff, while appointing Hur Won-je, a former journalist-turned-politician, as her senior secretary for political affairs.

The embattled president already appointed two new senior secretaries for civil affairs and public relations Sunday amid mounting calls for a sweeping personnel reshuffle of both her office and Cabinet. Park also plans to pick a new chief secretary for policy coordination soon.

With the latest appointments, Park replaced three of her 10 senior secretaries, as well as her chief of staff.

"(Han) has been appointed as he is well suited to assist the president from the citizens' perspective and stably manage state affairs given his deep knowledge and various experience, as well as the values of reconciliation and inclusion he has upheld," presidential spokesman Jung Youn-kuk told reporters.'

A day earlier, Park tapped Kim Byong-joon, a former policy adviser to the late liberal President Roh Moo-hyun, as new prime minister and designated the new ministers of finance and public security. Opposition parties, however, oppose what they call the "unilateral" nominations.

The 74-year-old Han, a former four-term lawmaker, served as a chief of staff to late liberal President Kim Dae-jung who ran the country from 1998 to 2003. In 1998, he also served as head of a tripartite panel consisting of representatives of employees, employers and the government. 

Han built ties with Park after he joined her presidential campaign in 2012.

"I will deliver to the president opinions from various walks of life," Han told reporters after his appointment was announced.

"I will faithfully execute my duties and support the president at this difficult time," he added.'

Hur, the new senior secretary for political affairs, formerly worked as a journalist for several local media outlets including The Kyunghang Shinmun and broadcaster KBS. He also served as a lawmaker from 2008 to 2012.

Hur was a key campaigner for Park when she was in the primary in 2007 to win the presidential nomination for the Grand National Party, a precursor to the ruling Saenuri Party.

"We expect him to conscientiously play a bridging role to ensure close communication and cooperation with the legislature and citizens," the presidential spokesman said.

The ruling party welcomed the appointments, saying Han is "suitable" for Park's chief of staff given his ample experience and political insight.

"We expect him to carry out a significant role amid the confusion in political circles," Saenuri spokesman Rep. Kim Sung-won said.

The main opposition Democratic Party, however, said the appointments lack sincerity and are no more than a superficial fix to cope with the scandal.

"I do not expect much," Rep. Youn Kwan-suk, the party's spokesman, said, adding the presidential office "pretends" to reshape Park's secretariat in a bipartisan manner by picking figures from the opposition bloc.

A rising number of opposition lawmakers are openly demanding the resignation of President Park Geun-hye, expressing disappointment in her handling of a scandal involving her confidante charged with abuse of authority and attempted fraud.

Six lawmakers from the Democratic Party called for Park's resignation, marking the first time that members of the main opposition party openly demanded she step down.

The small, progressive Justice Party has been the only political entity at the National Assembly to officially demand the resignation, although Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo, a potential candidate for next year's presidential race from the minor People's Party, also called for her to give up her presidency.

Other key figures from the opposition bloc often cited as influential contenders in the upcoming election, including Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, have started to demand Park's resignation amid mounting public anger towards Choi Soon-sil. Choi is seen as a behind-the-scene figure who used her long-standing ties to Park to exert power over state affairs.'

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 some 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. She is being investigated to see if she misappropriated money from the foundations.

The scandal has sent Park's approval rating plunging to a woeful single digit and prompted nationwide calls for her resignation.

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