Scandal-rocked South Korean president replaces PM
SEOULSouth Korean President Park Geun-Hye replaced her prime minister and finance minister Nov. 2, as she scrambled to contain a damaging scandal over a close friend accused of meddling in state affairs.
The top-level reshuffle, which also saw a new public safety minister, was the latest attempt to appease growing public anger with the president and her administration.
Park has been engulfed in a political storm over allegations that she allowed long-time friend Choi Soon-Sil, who holds no political position, to vet her speeches and have a voice in policy decisions - including cabinet appointments.
Choi is currently being detained and questioned by prosecutors over her links to Park and other allegations of influence-peddling and embezzlement.
A spokesman at the Seoul Prosecutors Office said a formal request had been made Nov. 2 to a local court to issue an arrest warrant for Choi on charges of fraud and abuse of power.
A presidential spokesman said Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-Ahn had been replaced “in connection with the current situation.”
The new premier was named as Kim Byong-Joon, a former top aide to the late liberal president Roh Moo-Hyun.
The prime minister is a largely symbolic post in South Korea, where power is firmly concentrated in the presidency.
It is the only cabinet post requiring parliamentary approval. Opposition parties said the reshuffle was a smokescreen and suggested they would block Kim’s nomination.
“People demanded that the president get rid of the Choi Soon-Sil-controlled cabinet, but this is just a second Choi Soon-Sil cabinet,” a spokesman for the main opposition Democratic Party said.