Fri, Jun 27, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Park retaining PM who resigned after disaster

AFP, SEOUL

After two failed attempts to appoint a new prime minister, South Korean President Park Geun-hye announced yesterday her “agonized” decision to retain the incumbent who resigned over April’s ferry disaster.

In an effort to assuage criticism of the government’s emergency response, South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won resigned just 10 days after the Sewol passenger ferry sank on April 16 with the loss of 300 lives.

Park accepted his resignation, but Chung was asked to remain in the job until a successor was found — a task that turned into an embarrassing debacle for the president.

Her first nominee, a retired Supreme Court justice, was forced to withdraw because of criticism over the large income he earned in private practice after leaving the bench.

The second, former journalist Moon Chang-keuk, withdrew on Tuesday over comments he made suggesting Japan’s repressive colonial rule on the Korean Peninsula was “God’s will.”

The two climbdowns were a fresh blow to Park, whose popularity ratings — in the wake of the ferry disaster — are already at their lowest level since she took office 16 months ago.

The Sewol sinking triggered a surge in anti-establishment sentiment that the opposition was able to exploit in its takedown of Park’s nominees.

As well as embarrassing the president, the opposition has sought to push the image of Park as an authoritarian leader whose decision-making — and personnel management — is flawed by a reliance on a very small clique of advisers.

Apparently fearful of another battle of a nominee, Park was eventually left with little choice but to retrospectively reject Chung’s initial resignation.

Presidential Blue House spokesman Yoon Doo-hyun said the decision arose from the need to break an administrative paralysis caused by the lack of a prime minister.

It was not immediately clear how long Chung would remain in the post.

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