PM and finance minister ousted amid South Korea scandal
Reshuffle marks President Park Guen-hye’s latest effort to restore confidence in her government as her approval ratings tumble
South Korea on Wednesday named a new prime minister and finance minister in the wake of the scandal that has rocked President Park Geun-hye’s administration involving a friend accused of meddling in state affairs.
The Blue House named Kim Byong-joon, a former senior presidential secretary during former President Roh Moo-hyun’s administration, as the new prime minister to replace Hwang Kyo-ahn. The prime minister’s role in South Korea is largely administrative.
Yim Jong-yong, chairman of the financial services commission, becomes the new finance minister and deputy prime minister. Yim, who replaces incumbent minister Yoo Il-ho, has been well-regarded by policy makers and market participants in his current role after overhauling the country’s indebted heavy industries.
The moves, which also include a new minister of public safety and security, were seen as an effort to soothe public anger over the scandal involving Park’s friend, Choi Soon-sil, who is in custody and under investigation by prosecutors.
“The Blue House named Kim as the right person to lead the cabinet for the country’s future and to overcome current hardships,” presidential spokesman Jung Youn-kuk said.
Neither incumbent Yoo and Hwang have been implicated in the scandal, although Yoo had been under pressure from opposition lawmakers over his close relationship with Park.
A public apology from Park on Tuesday for giving Choi access to draft speeches during the first months of her presidency has done little to improve her tumbling popularity ratings or deflect demands that she reveal the full nature of her ties with Choi and whether she enjoyed favors because of her friendship with the president.