South Korean President Park Geun Hye nominated a former journalist as prime minister to lead a government shakeup prompted by public anger over the Sewol ferry sinking.
Moon Chang Keuk, who worked at JoongAng Ilbo newspaper and teaches journalism at Seoul National University, was picked to replace Prime Minister Chung Hong Won, presidential spokesman Min Kyung Wook said today at a televised briefing. Chung offered his resignation to assume responsibility for the April 16 sinking that left about 300 people dead or missing, most of them high school students on a field trip.
Park’s earlier pick for premier, Ahn Dai Hee, withdrew his candidacy last month amid allegations by opposition lawmakers that the former justice might have peddled influence while working as an attorney, claims Ahn denied. The withdrawal was a setback for Park’s plan to overhaul her cabinet in the wake of the sinking that she said had exposed bureaucratic incompetence.
The new nominee “will properly drive state agenda such as reforming the bureaucracy and normalizing abnormalities,” Min said, calling Moon someone who has “long tried to correct the wrong practices and deep-rooted evils in our society through rational solutions and a cool-headed critical mind.”
Moon, who has no political experience, is an “extreme conservative” and his appointment runs counter to the people’s wish for change, the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy said in a statement on its website, vowing a “thorough vetting.”
Moon wrote a column for the newspaper and was previously a reporter covering politics.
Park also nominated South Korean ambassador to Japan, Lee Byung Kee, as the new head of the National Intelligence Service.
The nominations came as 15 crew members of the Sewol went on trial over their role in the ferry sinking that has rattled public confidence in Park’s government. Her party and the NPAD split the results of last week’s local elections, in what was Park’s first electoral test as president.
In South Korea the president holds executive power, with the prime minister having limited responsibilities.