Park Names Premier, Fires Spy Chief in Ferry-Sinking Shakeup

South Korean President Park Geun Hye tapped a former Supreme Court justice as the nation’s new prime minister and fired her intelligence chief and top security adviser as the fallout from the Sewol sinking continues to roil her government.

Park accepted the resignations of Nam Jae Joon, head of the National Intelligence Service, and Kim Jang Soo, Director of National Security, her spokesman Min Kyung Wook said today. Supreme Court justice Ahn Dai Hee was named to replace Prime Minister Chung Hong Won, who offered his resignation on April 27 over the government’s handling of the Sewol disaster.

Park made a televised apology to the nation on May 19 over the April 16 ferry sinking that left more than 300 people dead or missing as she tried to blunt public anger at the government’s handling of the tragedy. Prime Minister designate Ahn Dai Hee will lead a further reshuffle of Park’s cabinet and she announced this week that she planned to disband the coast guard for botching the rescue operation.

Park is seeking to stem the slide in her approval rating, which has fallen to 46 percent from 61 percent in early April, before the sinking.

The two security officials leaving the government are Park’s main collaborators in dealing with North Korea.

“Park’s North Korea approach is unlikely to change much after the sacking because she has personally overseen the policies herself,” Kim Man Heum, head of the Korean Academy of Politics and Leadership institute in Seoul, said by phone. “The appointment of Ahn is unlikely to impress critics because he isn’t someone who transcends political divisions.”

Parliamentary Approval

Ahn, a former member of Park’s 2012 election team, faces a parliamentary hearing before being formally appointed. In South Korea the president holds executive power, with the prime minister having limited responsibilities.

Nam’s resignation may be welcomed by Park’s political opposition, which had demanded he step down to take responsibility for his agency’s manipulation of evidence used to charge a man with spying for North Korea. Nam last month apologized in a televised press conference. North Korea late last year issued a death threat against him, accusing him of trying to topple the Pyongyang government.

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