By Lee Chi-dong
SEOUL, Aug. 8 (Yonhap) -- President Lee Myung-bak's Cabinet shake-up Sunday encapsulates his will to boost communication with political parties and the younger generation in the wake of his Grand National Party's (GNP) defeat in the June local elections.
Lee also seeks a fresh start for his tumultuous presidency as he begins the latter half of his single five-year tenure on Aug. 25.
"The Cabinet shake-up this time is aimed at solidifying the keynote of moderate pragmatism-oriented policy based on communication and integrity, accepting the demand for reform of the party, the government and Cheong Wa Dae shown in the June 2 local election and July 28 by-elections," Hong Sang-pyo, senior secretary for public relations at the presidential office, said, in announcing the biggest Cabinet reshuffle of the Lee administration so far.
Lee nominated Kim Tae-ho, former governor of South Gyeongsang Province, as his new prime minister and replaced seven ministers as well as two minister-level officials.
If the nomination of the 47-year-old Kim wins parliamentary approval, he would become the youngest prime minister of the country since Kim Jong-pil was tapped to the post in 1971 at the age of 45. Kim Tae-ho would be only the fifth to rise to the top Cabinet post before turning 50 in the traditionally seniority-oriented country.
"The third Cabinet (of the Lee administration) to be newly formed can be said to be a young Cabinet for the sake of communication and integrity shown in the election of the former governor in his 40s, who was a farmer, as prime minister," the senior secretary said.
Indeed, the president has been under heavy pressure to change his leadership style and pursue social unity since the GNP's rout in the June 2 local elections, although its unexpected triumph in by-elections last month gave him some leeway.
The mantra of the Lee government these days is generational change, communication and social integration, and centrist pragmatism friendly to low-income people.
Also noteworthy in Lee's latest Cabinet reshuffle is the pick of more politicians. The number of Cabinet members with political backgrounds will increase from five to eight.
The prime minister-designate was elected as governor of South Gyeongsang Province in 2004 on the GNP ticket. Six of the seven newly named ministers also have political careers.
Lee Jae-oh, who was named minister for special affairs, regained his parliamentary seat through the by-elections last month. He is one of the closest confidants to the president.
The president appointed Yoo Jeong-bok, a member of a GNP faction led by Park Geun-hye, former head of the party, in an apparent reconciliatory gesture to her. The president has been often at odds with Park, regarded as his political rival and one of the strongest candidates in the 2012 presidential race.
Also noteworthy were those he did not replace -- the ministers handling foreign affairs, national defense and policy on North Korea -- signaling there is no major change to the president's approach toward the communist neighbor.
Meanwhile, a partisan tug-of-war is expected as the nominees undergo confirmation hearings, as the choice of prime minister requires parliamentary endorsement. Other minister nominees will be subject to confirmation hearings, but their appointments do not need the legislature's approval.
"We will scrutinize whether prime minister-designate Kim has the qualifications and ability to lead the Cabinet and whether he has moral and ethical faults," Jeon Hyun-hee, spokeswoman of the main opposition Democratic Party, said.
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