Published : 2013-03-11 15:26
Updated : 2013-03-11 15:35
President Park Geun-hye appointed the foreign minister and a dozen other Cabinet members on Monday as she seeks to better handle tensions with North Korea and other pressing issues despite a parliamentary standoff over how to reorganize her administration.
Park has been without a new Cabinet since taking office on Feb.25 as the parliamentary confirmation process for her ministerial nominees has been delayed and her government reorganization proposal has been stuck in parliament due to opposition objections.
The 13 newly appointed Cabinet members are the ministers for foreign affairs, education, unification, justice, public administration, culture, industry and trade, health and welfare, environment, labor, gender equality, land and transportation and agriculture.
Foreign Minister Yu Byung-se is Park's long-time foreign policy brain. A former career diplomat of more than 30 years, Yun, 60, served as deputy foreign minister and then senior presidential security in 2006-2008, and has been known as the architect of her campaign platform on related issues.
He is also known to be well versed in U.S. affairs.
The 13 ministers have all passed parliamentary confirmation hearings.
The appointments come amid spiking tensions with North Korea.
The communist nation has sharply escalated war threats in response to annual military exercises that South Korea has been holding jointly with the United States, and especially after the U.N. Security Council adopted a new sanctions resolution last week for its third nuclear test.
The North has threatened that Monday would be the day it stops abiding by the cease-fire agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War and cuts off a hotline set up at the truce village of Panmunjom on the inter-Korean border to prevent accidental clashes between the sides.
Pyongyang has also threatened to turn Seoul and Washington into a "sea of fire" and launch a "preemptive nuclear strike" against "aggressors" while warning "a second Korean War is unavoidable." In response, South Korea has vowed to deal strongly with any North Korean provocations.
Park held lunch with the new ministers before holding her first Cabinet meeting.
Though details were not immediately available, North Korea was expected to be a key topic for the session. Also expected to be on the table are public safety issues, such as a string of brush fires in southern South Korea.
Park plans to form an 18-member Cabinet. Even after Monday's 13 appointments, however, four more ministers need to be appointed, including the defense minister. Sources said Park plans to appoint the defense minister on Tuesday even if the confirmation process for him is not completed.
She also plans to appoint the finance minister later this week, they said.
Unlike the prime minister appointment, which is subject to parliamentary consent, other government ministers can be appointed regardless of the results of their confirmation hearings, though such forceful appointments could spark a public backlash.
Still, completion of Park's Cabinet formation is expected to take more time because two remaining appointments -- the maritime affairs minister and the science minister -- cannot take place unless their agencies are first established under her government reorganization plan.
The bill has been pending in the National Assembly for weeks due to disagreement over Park's wish to transfer some responsibilities of the watchdog Korea Communications Commission to the new ministry of future creation and science, an agency that she plans to create and use as the main ministry responsible for South Korea's economic growth.
The opposition claims the move could hurt the neutrality of broadcasting firms.(Yonhap News)