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Cablegate: President-Elect Names Transition Leaders

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R 280625Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY SEOUL
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RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 3787
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RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC//OSD/ISA/EAP//

UNCLAS SEOUL 003608

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KN KS PGOV PREL PINR
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT-ELECT NAMES TRANSITION LEADERS


1. (SBU) Summary: On December 26 President-elect Lee
Myung-bak formally named Lee Kyung-sook chairperson of his
transition team, making her the first Korean woman to serve
in that capacity. Lee has named a total of 26 people,
filling some key positions. In addition to the Chairperson,
Lee Myung-bak appointed Representative Kim Hyung-o as Vice
Chairman; Lee Dong-kwan as Transition Committee Spokesman;
and Representative Lim Tae-hee as Chief of Staff. Other
appointments will be made later this week after consultation
with Lee Kyung-sook. Serving in one of these key positions
is not necessarily an indicator of who will fill key posts in
the administration, but it does denote closeness to and
compatible policy views with the president-elect. End
Summary.

------------
Organization
------------

2. (SBU) Lee Myung-bak's transition team, at a projected 180
members, will be significantly smaller than President Roh
Moo-hyun's transition team, which numbered 247. The
transition organization will be comprised of one special
committee on national competitiveness and seven separate
subcommittees covering economic, foreign affairs, education,
and administrative issues. Lee Myung-bak will also retain an
advisory group that reports directly to him.

-------------------------
Chairwoman Lee Kyung-sook
-------------------------

3. (SBU) Lee Kyung-sook (64) is in her fourth term as
president of Sookmyung Women's University and first met
candidate-elect Lee at church. She graduated from Sookmyung
with a degree in political science and went on to get her
master's degree from the University of Kansas and her
doctorate from the University of South Carolina. She has
served on numerous Boards of Directors, including that of
Samsung Corporation in 1998. Lee is married to Choi
Young-sang -- former vice president of Korea University --
and has one daughter and one son. Lee is credited with
improving Sookmyung's academic standing and, more
importantly, successfully endowing the once very poor
university.

-------------------------
Vice Chairman Kim Hyung-o
-------------------------

4. (SBU) Kim Hyung-o (60) is a fourth-term GNP lawmaker and
was formerly Chairman of Lee Myung-bak's "National Vision"
campaign. Kim has his bachelor's and master's degrees in
political science from Seoul National University and his
doctorate from Kyungnam University. He has been a lawmaker
since 1992 and was GNP floor leader from 2006-2007.

--------------------------------------------
Transition Committee Spokesman Lee Dong-kwan
--------------------------------------------

5. (SBU) Lee Dong-kwan (50) was a public relations aid for
Lee Myung-bak's campaign and served as a National Election
Commission public affairs officer. Lee, born in Seoul,
attended Seoul National University where he majored in
political science. Formerly Tokyo correspondent, Political
Desk Chief, and editorial writer and Dong-A Newspaper, Lee
was recognized during the campaign for his political
sensitivity and agility in analyzing press reports and
developing effective responses. Despite entering Lee's camp
in August, 2007, Lee secured a top spot in the transition.
Pundits speculated that Lee hoped to run for a National
Assembly seat in April, but now that he has taken a key role
in the transition, most expect him to instead take a
prominent position in the Blue House.

--------------------------
Chief of Staff Lim Tae-hee
--------------------------

6. (SBU) Lim Tae-hee (51) is from Gyeonggi Province and has
a bachelor's degree in business management from Seoul
National University. After a career as an economic
specialist he turned to politics and has been a member of the
National Assembly since 2000. He has served as GNP spokesman
and Senior Deputy Floor Leader and was also head of the GNP
think tank, Yoido Institute. Well regarded by lawmakers in
the GNP and the UNDP, Lim remained neutral during the party
primaries, but became one of Lee Myung-bak's confidants
during the final months of the campaign.

--------
The Team
--------

7. (SBU) The other confirmed transition team leaders are as
follows:

-- Administrative Chief: Baek Sung-woon, former Vice Gyeonggi
Province Governor,
-- Policy Ombudsman Center Chief: Lee Sang-mok, NGO activist,
-- Planning & Coordination Subcommittee: Maeng Hyung-kyu, a
third-term lawmaker is chief, supported by Lee Myung-bak
confidant and Korea University professor Kwak Seung-joon,
-- Political Subcommittee: Jin Soo-hee, NA member,
-- Foreign Affairs, Unification & National Security
Subcommittee: Park Jin, NA member who notably beat out close
Lee Myung-bak advisor Hyun In-taek for the top spot,
-- Judiciary & Administrative Subcommittee: Chung Dong-ki,
former Vice Justice Minister,
-- Economy (1) Subcommittee: Kang Man-soo, former Vice
Finance Minister,
-- Economy (2) Subcommittee: Choi Kyung-hwan, NA member,
-- Social, Educational & Cultural Subcommittee: Lee Joo-ho,
NA member.

The president-elect also named members of his Special
Committee on National Competitiveness:

-- Co-chairs: Sagong Il, former Finance Minister and David
Eldon, Dubai International Financial Centre Authority
Chairman and the first foreigner to be appointed to a
transition team,
-- Co-Vice Chairs: Kim Hyung-o, NA member and Yoon Jin-sik,
former Commerce, Industry & Energy Minister,
-- To head up the task forces are Representative Park
Jae-wan; Yoon Jin-sik; Gyeongbuk University professor Huh
Jeung-soo; former North Jeolla Governor Kang Hyun-wook; and
Seoul National University Professor Min Dong-pil.

Still to be announced are members of the inauguration
preparation committee and the president-elect's secretariat,
though rumor has it some of those positions have already been
decided.

------------------
Somang Church Ties
------------------

8. (SBU) Lee Myung-bak's decision to appoint Lee Kyung-sook
Chairperson of his transition team has raised speculation
that Lee Myung-bak, who is praised for de-emphasizing school
ties and political cronyism, might rely on church ties in
political appointments. Indeed, a number of Lee's advisors
also attend Somang Presbyterian Church, where Lee is an
elder, including key transition figures Lee Kyung-sook, Kwak
Seung-joon, and Kang Man-soo. Although Lee does seem to use
church as another means of networking, the church boasts a
congregation of 70,000, and is frequented by approximately 60
former and incumbent ministers, 10 university presidents, and
150 popular entertainers.

-------
Comment
-------

9. (SBU) Lee has set out many ambitious goals for his
tenure, among them reforming government, building a
cross-country canal, improving ties with the U.S. and Japan
and boosting the country's economy. His transition team will
attempt to set out a blueprint that he can follow once he
takes office. The day after Lee was inaugurated as Seoul
Mayor in 2006, he went to Cheonggye Stream and kicked off the
project to restore the paved-over downtown stream. Many
expect "the bulldozer" to do the same as president. Still, it
remains to be seen how much he can accomplish this spring
with the National Assembly stacked against him and National
Assembly elections scheduled for April.
YUN

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