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Cablegate: Blue House Senior Secretaries Announced

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FM AMEMBASSY SEOUL
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RUALSFJ/COMUSJAPAN YOKOTA AB JA
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RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA J5 SEOUL KOR
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RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC//OSD/ISA/EAP//

UNCLAS SEOUL 000262

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR KN KS
SUBJECT: BLUE HOUSE SENIOR SECRETARIES ANNOUNCED


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On February 10, the Presidential Transition
Committee announced the lineup for the Blue House Senior
Secretaries. Notably, GNP lawmaker Park Jae-wan was named

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Senior Presidential Secretary for Political Affairs, and
Korea University Professor Kim Byung-kook Senior Secretary
for Foreign Affairs and National Security. The new lineup
features academics; six out of the eight earned their
doctoral degrees from U.S. universities; four are currently
professors; the two lawmakers named previously were
professors. President-elect Lee emphasized their
professional ability and dedication, but other political
parties remain critical of the apparent regional and personal
favoritism. However, particular criticism of those named has
been light. The group is relatively young and will likely
play a coordinating more than policy-making role.
Regardless, their strong ties to the U.S. and their proximity
to the President mean that most of President Lee's foreign
policies will likely be made with a good understanding of the
U.S. END SUMMARY.

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OVERVIEW
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2. (SBU) President-elect Lee Myung-bak named seven senior
presidential secretaries and the spokesman for the
Presidential Office, Cheong Wa Dae. As part of Lee
Myung-bak's plan to streamline government, the senior
secretaries have assistant minister rather than minister

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status as in the past. Among the seven named, five have
degrees from Ivy League universities, including Harvard,
Pennsylvania, and Cornell, while the other two are graduates
of Vanderbilt and Michigan. In Roh Moo-hyun's first Blue
House, among the ten senior secretaries, two received PhDs
from U.S. schools.

3. (SBU) Except for the senior secretary for civil affairs,
former Chief of the Seoul High Prosecutors' Office, Lee
excluded bureaucrats from the list. He favored graduates of
his alma mater, as two of the seven are graduates of Korea
University and one is currently a professor there. Two are
in their 60s, two in the early 50s and four in their late
40s. Given their relative youth and lower bureaucratic
status, the Blue House Secretariat will subordinate
themselves to cabinet ministers, according to contacts in the
Transition Team.

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHIEF: KIM, BYUNG-KOOK
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4. (SBU) Korea University Professor Kim Byung-kook was chosen
as the Senior Presidential Secretary for Foreign and Security
Affairs (under Roh this was the position occupied by the
National Security Advisor and had minister-level status).
Kim, 49, comes from an elite background; his extended family
owns Dong-a Ilbo group, which includes Korea University. He
attended Phillips Andover Academy, and earned his B.A. in
economics, and M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from
Harvard. Since 1990, he has taught political science at
Korea University. He founded and has served as Director of
the East Asia Institute (EAI) since 2002, a non-governmental,
non-profit entity dedicated to studying the dynamics of East
Asia in a complex transformational era. Kim apparently
reflects President-elect Lee's strong emphasis on solidifying
the U.S.-ROK Alliance, but some have criticized Kim's lack of
practical experience.

------------------------------
POLITICAL CHIEF: PARK, JAE-WAN
------------------------------

5. Rep. Park (also Bahk) Jae-wan of the Grand National Party
(GNP) was named Senior Secretary for Political Affairs. Born
in Masan, South Gyeongsang Province, in 1955, Bahk has served
as a GNP proportional representative since 2004 after
teaching political science at Sungkyunkwan University. He
earned his BA in economics at Seoul National University and
PhD in public policy at Harvard. With a varied background in
the Cabinet, the Blue House, academia, and the political
circle, Park's main task is to bridge the gap between the
presidential office, the Cabinet, and political parties.

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THE REST
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6. (SBU) Kim Choong-soo, president of Hallym University, was
named Senior Secretary for Economic Affairs. Kim, 60, worked
as president of the Korea Development Institute (KDI), a
state-funded think tank, between 2002 and 2005 after serving
as a presidential aide for economic policy in 1993. He was a
key player in Korea's accession to the OECD in 1996. Park
Mee-sok, a professor at Sookmyung Women's University, was
named Senior Secretary for Social Affairs. Park, 49, has
long been acquainted with the President-elect, including her
service as an aide when Lee was Seoul Mayor. She also
attends the same church as Lee.

7. (SBU) Kwak Seung-jun, 47, an economics professor at Korea
University, was named Senior Secretary for National Policy
Planning. Kwak was born in North Gyeongsang Province and
graduated from the economics department of Korea University,
has been serving Lee since his days as Mayor of Seoul. He
has been one of the key architects of many of the
President-elect's policy pledges, including the grand canal
project. Kwak was widely acknowledged during the campaign as
the professor with the most access to Lee Myung-bak.
Proportional GNP representative Lee Joo-ho was designated as
Senior Secretary for Education, Science and Cultural Affairs.
Born in Daegu in 1961, Rep. Lee is considered an education
expert though his recent proposals to revamp the English
education system have come under fire.

8. (SBU) Lee Jong-chan, former Chief of the Seoul High
Prosecutors' Office, was appointed as Senior Secretary for
Civil Affairs. The 61-year-old lawyer was born in Goseong,
South Gyeongsang Province, and has assisted the
President-elect in defending against the BBK scandal.
Finally, Lee Dong-kwan, 50, spokesman of the Presidential
Transition Committee, was named spokesman of Cheong Wa Dae.
The spokesman, who served as an editorial writer for the
Dong-A Ilbo newspaper before joining the Lee camp last year,
will double as Senior Secretary for Public Relations.
VERSHBOW

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