Accessibility links

South Korean President Begins Government Shakeup

  • Kurt Achin

South Korea's President has begun a high-level shakeup of his government expected to continue next week. The move is aimed at soothing the anger of tens of thousands of protesters who say he has disregarded public sentiment on everything from U.S. beef imports to public schools. VOA Seoul Correspondent Kurt Achin reports.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak introduced seven new faces to the top levels of government Friday - all of them replacements for advisers who quit their jobs in the face of public anger.

The change of personnel follows Mr. Lee's own public apology a day earlier for his management of a deal to resume imports of United States beef.

In a briefing broadcast live by major South Korean networks, Mr. Lee introduced a new chief of staff, and six presidential secretaries.

He says he chose all of them very carefully based on their ability to live up to the public's expectations.

All of President Lee's senior secretaries and Cabinet members tendered their resignations earlier this month, following weeks of mass protests against the administration.

The candlelight demonstrations, which culminated in a massive June 10 showing of about 100,000 people, were mainly a show of opposition to Mr. Lee's April deal to resume U.S. beef imports. That deal failed to restrict imports of beef from older cattle, which many South Koreans believe pose a risk of transmitting a human variant of mad cow disease.

However, many of the protesters say that beef deal fits a much wider pattern of disregard for public opinion by the Lee government. They accuse the president of hastily pushing economic privatization, education reforms, and massive infrastructure projects forward without proper consultation.

Meng Hyung-kyu, newly appointed secretary for political affairs, says he and his colleagues will take a different approach.

He says his ears are open, and he is ready to listen. He says he wants the opportunity to renew the public's sense of hope.

President Lee is expected to replace members of his Cabinet next week, possibly replacing the South Korean prime minister. His trade minister is expected to wrap up talks in Washington this week aimed at amending the beef import deal with a voluntary U.S. export ban on meat from older cattle.

XS
SM
MD
LG