South Korea President Park reshuffles cabinet as crisis deepens


South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye has replaced the country’s prime minister and finance minister. The move comes as prosecutors call for the arrest of her personal aide at the center of a political scandal.

Kim Byong-joon – a former top policy adviser for late liberal President Roh Moo-hyun – was nominated as the new prime minister for South Korea on Wednesday.

The nomination, which requires parliamentary approval, is seen as an effort by the conservative Park to reach out to liberals for bipartisan support.

“This replacement of the prime minister and finance minister can’t be happening without discussing it with the opposition,” Park Jie-won, leader of the opposition People’s Party, told a party meeting. “We won’t stand by such a move to turn around the current situation with the personnel change.”

Park named Financial Services Commission chairman Yim Jong-yong as finance minister and deputy prime minister. Yim, who will replace incumbent minister Yoo Il-ho, is well-regarded by policy makers and business leaders in his current role.

The goal is to restore some public confidence amid a political scandal that involves Park’s longtime friend – Choi Soon Sil – who was taken in for questioning on Monday, a day after returning from two months in Germany. South Korean prosecutors asked a court on Wednesday to issue an arrest warrent for Choi Soon Sil, the Yonhap News Agency reported. She has reportedly been charged with abuse of power and attempted fraud.

A popularity low

Thousands rallied in Seoul over the weekend, demanding Park’s resignation, while the latest public surveys put Park’s approval rating at about 10 percent, the lowest since her inauguration in February 2013. The surveys showed about half of respondents believing Park should resign or be impeached.

The reshuffles came as prosecutors investigated whether Choi Soon Sil – who has no official role – used her ties with the president to pull government strings and push businesses to donate money to foundations she controlled.

A televised apology by Park last week for giving Choi access to draft speeches during the first months of her presidency has done little to deflect demands that Park reveal the full nature of her ties with Choi. The scandal has already obliged her to fire eight presidential aides.

Choi was taken in for questioning on Monday, a day after returning from two months in Germany.

Prosecutors said Choi was detained so as to prevent her from potentially destroying evidence. Choi has denied any wrongdoing, saying that she only helped the president write speeches and that she would accept any punishment if she was found guilty of criminal acts.

jbh/jm (AP, Reuters, dpa)


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