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South Korean President Replaces 4 Cabinet Members


The South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun has named new ministers of finance and education in a cabinet reshuffle involving four portfolios. But the changes are already being criticized as a failure by the president, to respond to public discontent with his administration.

President Roh Moo-hyun on Monday named Kwon O-kyu as finance minister to replace Han Duck-soo, who stepped down last week. Kwon's main challenges will be to halt a slowdown in the South Korean economy, and muster domestic support for a controversial free trade agreement with the United States.

Also in the finance area, Jun Gun-pyo was named as the new commissioner of the National Tax Service and Chang Byoung-wan will head the Budget Ministry.

The president named Kim Byung-joon as education minister to succeed Kim Jin-pyo, who resigned last week after a food poisoning outbreak in local schools sickened thousands of students.

Lee Jeong-hyun, with the opposition Grand National Party, is critical of the reshuffle.

He says the president is out of touch with the country's voters.

Mr. Roh's Uri Party suffered a stinging defeat in May's local elections and his approval rating is currently about 14 percent.

Kim Hyung-joon, a political science professor at Seoul's Kookmin University says Monday's cabinet reshuffle is not likely to improve the South Korean president's political standing.

Kim says the disastrous Uri showing in May's election was the public's way of showing disapproval of the Roh administration's policies. But now, he adds, Mr. Roh has given high-level positions to the very people responsible for the unpopular policies.

Mr. Roh's popularity has declined in recent months in part due to the perception that he is an indecisive leader. His economic policies have also been criticized for failing to generate growth.

Under South Korea's constitution, Mr. Roh himself must step down next year, when presidential elections are scheduled.

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