Park names controversial maritime minister

President Park Geun-hye went ahead with the appointment of controversial maritime minister Yoon Jin-sook on Wednesday, quashing the reconciliatory mood with the opposition party that called it the "ultimate appointment debacle."

Park brushed aside the Democratic United Party's demand that she reconsider her unpopular choice, despite Cheong Wa Dae's increased contacts with opposing lawmakers for their cooperation in getting major government bills passed.

Along with Yoon, Science Minister Choi Mun-kee, prosecutor-general Chae Dong-wook and Korea Communications Commission chairman Lee Kyeong-jae were formally named to their posts. This completed Park's appointments, which took 52 days from the launch of the new administration.

The DUP immediately denounced the move, as the leadership faced growing internal criticism for "caving in" to Park's gesture without accomplishing tangible results, namely the resignation of Yoon, who critics have said lacks competency.

The ruling Saenuri Party, meanwhile, appeared more cautious, apparently anxious not to hurt its chances of winning the April 24 by-elections in which independent candidate Ahn Cheol-soo is running.

"Cheong Wa Dae should bear sole responsibility over political deadlock or political burden that follows the personal appointment," DUP spokesman Yoon Kwan-seok said.

The ruling Saenuri Party did its best to undermine the shortfalls represented in the confirmation hearing.

"It appears that candidate Yoon fell short of making sufficient preparation for the confirmation hearing rather than it being the problem of her ability," Rep. Yoo Il-ho of the Saenuri Party was quoted as saying.

The DUP, nonetheless, took issue with her competence.

"It is the nadir of the appointment debacle for Park to have named Yoon as the minister. We warn that Park will continue to carry with her the controversial issue in the future," sources said.

DUP floor leader Park Ki-choon took a step further in denouncing Park's decision, saying, "It is highly regrettable that the situation has reached this point despite the opposition from the people and the National Assembly. The future of the oceans ministry is dark."

Relations between Park and the National Assembly have been frayed since the launch of her presidential transitional committee, as she has been seen to bypass the views of the ruling party in her policymaking process, and shunning communication with the opposition.

Park had gestured toward reconciliation, inviting the DUP leadership and the heads of each standing committee for dinner over the past week.

Cheong Wa Dae needs parliamentary support to implement supplementary budget plans to prepare for an anticipated economic downturn and tax revenue shortfall. It also needs approval from the National Assembly to pass its real estate stimulation measures, one of the first such large-scale plans to be devised by the new government.

Park's approval ratings have continued to slide since her election and currently hover around 40 per cent, namely due to repeated personnel appointment flops that resulted in at least five of her nominees to top government posts resigning.

The opposition forces, meanwhile, raised questions over Park's earlier choices.

According to a Korean-language daily, Lee Heon-su, a former National Intelligence Service official, who now heads the security agency's office of planning and coordination, allegedly recommended several of his employees to invest in stocks of his acquaintance's company in 2000 . He reportedly arranged for the investors to resell the stocks before the anticipated drop of the relevant stock price. The NIS denied all such allegations.

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