Park shuffles Cabinet, infuriates opposition

Updated: 2016-11-03 07:42

(Agencies/China Daily)

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Park shuffles Cabinet, infuriates opposition

Protesters wearing cut-out of South Korean President Park Geun-hye (C) and Choi Soon-sil attend a protest denouncing President Park Geun-hye over a recent influence-peddling scandal in central Seoul, South Korea, October 27, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

South Korea's presidential office on Wednesday named a new prime minister and finance minister, the highest-level shake-up since President Park Geun-hye's administration was first rocked by a scandal involving a friend accused of meddling in state affairs.

Opposition parties denounced the reshuffle as a bid by Park to divert attention from the crisis.

The Blue House named Financial Services Commission Chairman Yim Jong-Yong as finance minister and deputy prime minister. Yim, who replaces incumbent minister Yoo Il-ho, has been well-regarded in his current role.

Kim Byong-joon, a senior presidential secretary under former president Roh Moo-Hyun, is expected to replace Hwang Kyo-Ahn as prime minister.

Appointing Kim, who has a reputation as a liberal, appears to be a bid by the conservative Park to placate the opposition and soothe public anger over the scandal involving Park's friend, Choi Soon-Sil, 60, who is in custody.

But the shake-up did little to please the opposition.

"This replacement of the prime minister and finance minister can't be happening without discussing it with the opposition," said Park Jie-won, leader of the opposition People's Party, insisting his party will boycott nomination hearings.

South Korean stocks and the won currency did not react to the changes.

A growing number of opposition politicians, as well as many members of the public have called on Park Geun-hye to step down, although the opposition has not called for impeachment proceedings.

No South Korean president has ever resigned or been impeached successfully. If Park, 64, were to step down, an election would be held in 60 days.

Prosecutors are looking into allegations Choi forced conglomerates to donate to nonprofit foundations using her friendship with the president and whether she benefited financially.