President Park Geun Hye Orders Top Cheong Wa Dae Officials To Resign Amid Scandal

John Kim, Oct. 31, 2016, 9:48 a.m.

President Park Geun-hye on Sunday ordered several top Cheong Wa Dae officials to resign in a bid to assuage mounting public uproar over a crony scandal. Park accepted the resignations of presidential chief of staff Lee Won-jong and senior secretary Woo Byung-woo, who was in charge of auditing Cheong Wa Dae officials.

She appointed Choi Jai-kyeong, a former prosecutor, as her new senior secretary for civil affairs and named Bae Sung-rye, a former National Assembly spokesperson, as her chief secretary for public relations.

Park also accepted the resignations of three of her closest aides -- Lee Jae-man, Jeong Ho-seong and Ahn Bong-geun -- who served as the presidential secretaries for administrative affairs, private presidential affairs and public relations. They served Park since she started in politics 18 years ago.

Some ruling party lawmakers wondered aloud if she will be able to do her job without them because they have been the reclusive president’s main channel of communication with the outside world.

The three were widely known for the influence they wielded in the appointment of high-ranking officials and key policy decisions, and it was said they knew what Park was thinking just by looking at her face.

Lee and Jeong are suspected of delivering presidential speeches and other sensitive Cheong Wa Dae documents to Choi Soon-sil, the woman at the heart of the scandal who is accused of meddling in government and influence peddling.

In Korean politics senior officials are traditionally expected to take the rap for their boss and accept it as part of their job description, so the move is not as unusual as it would seem in a western context.

A Cheong Wa Dae reshuffle had not been expected until early this week, but Park appears to have sensed that the task was urgent to assuage public anger.

"As President Park is deeply aware of the gravity of the current situation, she has decided to conduct a shakeup of the presidential secretariat to meet the demands from various walks of life for a personnel revamp."

Meanwhile, Kim Chong, second vice minister of culture, sports and tourism who has also been linked to the scandal, resigned on Sunday. The shakeup is expected to continue this week.

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