[Newsmaker] China probes ex-security czar

Park calls for robust defense, trust-building with N. Korea

President holds first Cabinet meeting with new ministers

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Published : 2013-03-11 20:25
Updated : 2013-03-11 20:27

President Park Geun-hye in the first Cabinet meeting Monday ordered solid security against North Korea’s provocation but also urged for efforts to start the trust-building process with the defiant regime.

“One of the core directions for the new government is to build the foundation for peace and unification of the Korean Peninsula. While we should strongly counter any provocation by the North, we must also not stop our efforts to activate the trust-building process,” Park said in the meeting held after more than two weeks of state affairs vacuum.

Park’s reemphasis on her “truspolitk” mantra was considered a gesture to open dialogue with the North in a double-track approach to manage the escalating tension caused by Pyongyang’s elevated threats of a military collision.

North Korea has been upping its threat of a military attack since the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions against its Feb. 12 nuclear test, declaring it will scrap the non-aggression pact as of March 11 in protest to the joint military drills by South Korea and the U.S.
President Park Geun-hye presides over her first Cabinet meeting at Cheong Wa Dae on Monday. (Chung Hee-cho/ The Korea Herald)

Park urged the Unification Ministry to maintain close watch for the safety of the public, and particularly the residents of Yeonpyeong island located in the West Sea and those working in the joint industrial complex in Gaeseong.

To the Foreign Ministry, Park emphasized a need for an active mobilization of diplomatic channels to lead Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambition and “make the right choice.”

Park delivered her demands for each ministry during the hour-long meeting, which had been delayed due to the deadlocked parliamentary negotiation over her government reorganization plans.

Earlier in the day, Park handed out official designations for 13 ministers, including those for foreign affairs, unification, justice, culture, health, environment, labor, education and commerce. But many of them were named to the original names of the relevant ministries.

With regard to the reports that some military officials played golf over the weekend at a time of heightened tensions, Park insisted the Defense Ministry prevent such incident from reoccurring.

Park also indicated a full-blown personnel reshuffle at each government affiliate and public organization by stating they should hire people “that share the state philosophy of the new government.”

Citing paralyzed state affairs due to a political standoff over her new government plan, Park took time to press the opposition to swiftly pass her government reorganization plans in her opening speech. The rival parties have been at an impasse over transferring the affairs related to cable channels’ service operators to the newly forming Ministry of Future Planning and Science.

“Politics exist for the good of the people. I urge that for the sake of the country and the people (the National Assembly) quickly passes the government reorganization plan,”

Sources said Park is likely to formally appoint her defense minister-nominee Kim Byung-kwan on Tuesday despite vehement opposition over his alleged ethical lapses.

Park also ordered an overall review of each ministry for any misuse of budget as well as large-scale state projects, citing the Board of Audit and Inspection’s January report that found the former government’s four river refurbishment works faulty.

“There must not be any waste of the budget not to mention any lingering doubt by the public by conducting a thorough review (of the project),” Park said. Park had previously remained cautious over commenting on her predecessor’s pet project.

The president reiterated her determination to implement all the promised welfare projects and measures to protect private investors against any form of stock manipulation.

As for the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, which will take on the role related to trade negotiation from the Foreign Ministry, Park underscored a need to bring about “bigger synergy effect.”

After reiterating her resolve to assist small traders and medium businesses, Park asked the ministry to properly follow-up on the trilateral free trade agreement with China and Japan.

Park also touched on measures to prevent natural disasters, referring to a series of large forest fires across the nation over the weekend, and the need for reform in the judiciary as pledged during her campaign.

Cheong Wa Dae, meanwhile, said presidential secretaries, vice ministers, and heads of each government agencies will be announced Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.

By Lee Joo-hee (jhl@heraldcorp.com)

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