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Cablegate: Justice, Agriculture, Other Ministers to Resign

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHUL #2359/01 2190659
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 070659Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY SEOUL
TO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 2938
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 3054
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5872
INFO RHHJJPI/PACOM IDHS HONOLULU HI
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA J2 SEOUL KOR
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA SCJS SEOUL KOR
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SEOUL 002359

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KS
SUBJECT: JUSTICE, AGRICULTURE, OTHER MINISTERS TO RESIGN


-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) The Blue House is poised to undertake a significant
change of personnel in the Cabinet. The Minister of Justice,
the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, and the Minister of
Information and Communication have all submitted their
resignations, while the Ministers of Communication,
Government Policy Coordination, Gender Equality and Family
Affairs, and possibly others appear to be preparing theirs.
Speculation abounds that Justice Minister Kim Sung-ho was
forced out due to a public disagreement with President Roh
over Roh's apparent violation of election laws. The other
resignations may be an effort to tighten Blue House
discipline in the run-up to the December presidential
elections and to reward stalwart Roh supporters with Cabinet
appointments. The President's foreign policy team appears to
be safe for now, but could be in peril depending on
developments in Afghanistan. END SUMMARY.

--------------------------------------------- -----
MINISTER OF JUSTICE RESIGNS OVER ELECTION LAW SPAT
--------------------------------------------- -----

2. (SBU) Justice Minister Kim Sung-ho's August 6 resignation
followed months of discord with the Blue House, which peaked
following Kim's June 11 testimony at the National Assembly
which squarely opposed the President. At issue was the ROK
election watchdog's conclusion that the President had twice
violated the election law by accusing the Grand National
Party of corruption. President Roh said the law was
unconstitutional; Kim, however, backed the watchdog agency
and argued that the law was indeed constitutional.

3. (SBU) Kim has rubbed up against official Administration
positions on other issues as well. For example, he made
pro-business comments in December and January that became an
irritant in government-labor relations. He also commented in
July that prosecutors should cease an investigation of
presidential contender Lee Myung-bak if Lee dropped his
lawsuit against the government. Finally, in an apparent
conflict with the President's policy of firmness against
crimes committed by affluent criminals, Kim spoke out in
favor of Hanwha Group Chairman Kim Seung-yeon, who was
implicated in an assault and battery case. Chung Sung-jin,
Chairman of the Korea Independent Commission Against
Corruption, appears to be the likely successor.

--------------------------------------------
AGRICULTURE AND INFORMATION MINISTERS RESIGN
--------------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Park Hong-soo, the Minister of Agriculture and
Forestry, also submitted his resignation on August 6 for
reasons that are not clear, Publicly, Minister Park said he
offered his resignation because, after serving a relatively
lengthy two years and seven months, all necessary follow-up
issues related to the KORUS FTA had been resolved. Others
speculate, however, that he resigned due to complaints by
farmers who feared the repercussions of an FTA with the
United States. Yet others believe he may be preparing for a
2008 National Assembly bid. Another reason might be that Roh
wants to reward his loyalists with Cabinet-level
appointments. Possible candidates to take his place include
Blue House Senior Economic Secretary Yun Dae-hee and Minister
of Government Policy Coordination Im Sang-kyu.


5. (SBU) Information and Communication Minister Noh
Joon-hyung, who has been in office nearly 18 months, also
resigned on August 6. Although his stated reason was to
"give a chance to other bureaucrats," some believe that he,
too, is preparing for a National Assembly bid. Both Yun and
Im are under consideration for this position as well.

---------------------------
OTHER RESIGNATIONS POSSIBLE
---------------------------

6. (SBU) Minister of Gender Equality and Family Affairs Jang
Ha-jin, Minister of Labor Lee Sang-soo, and Minister of
Government Policy Coordination Im Sang-kyu are all rumored to
be preparing resignations as well.

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COMMENT
-------

7. (SBU) It was our understanding that the Blue House had
been planning to reshuffle the Cabinet in September, when the
National Assembly begins its regular session. Justice
Minister Kim's resignation -- or ouster -- appears to have
accelerated the event. To date, the President's foreign
policy team appears to be safe; however, their political fate
may be closely tied to the fate of the hostages in
Afghanistan.
STANTON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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