Roh faces new fight with his foes over his nominee for PM

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 May, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 May, 2004, 12:00am

Kim Hyuk-kyu, who defected to the ruling party, has been branded a traitor

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun is on another collision course with the opposition just weeks after being returned to office following the overturn of his impeachment.

The presidential office has said Mr Roh will push ahead with the nomination of Kim Hyuk-kyu, a former opposition lawmaker, to the post of prime minister.

Mr Kim's appointment is being fiercely resisted by the opposition Grand National Party, which branded him a traitor after he defected from it to the pro-government Uri Party shortly before last month's national elections.

The 64-year-old lawmaker's appointment would have to be approved by the National Assembly following a tough parliamentary confirmation hearing before being allowed to take up the prime minister's job.

The president has pledged to pursue more harmonious relations with political opponents, but Mr Roh's tough stance over the appointment has surprised few political analysts.

'A lot of his reactions are based on his instincts and despite the experience of his impeachment, there won't be any fundamental repositioning,' said Lim Wonhyuk of the Korea Development Institute.

A new prime minister is needed to replace Goh Kun who resigned this week.

Before leaving office, Mr Goh resisted repeated requests by the presidential office to put his name to a list of new cabinet appointments.

Under the South Korean constitution, the president receives recommendations for cabinet appointments from his prime minister.

Mr Goh's refusal scuppered plans to mark a fresh chapter in Mr Roh's presidency with a new cabinet lineup following his return to office. Last week, the Constitutional Court overturned his impeachment, allowing Mr Roh to resume his duties.

'It will be difficult to reshuffle the government before mid-June,' acknowledged Mr Roh during the weekly cabinet meeting.

The new cabinet will have to wait until a prime minister is confirmed, but the delay has increased media attention in a tense rivalry between two leading members of the Uri Party for the job of unification minister.

The former head of the Uri Party, Chung Dong-young is thought to have clinched the post against Kim Geun-tae, who has instead been tipped as the future minister of health and welfare.

The two men are regarded as possible future presidential candidates and are anxious to position themselves for any bid for the top office.

Mr Roh has pardoned six people, including a former spy agency chief, convicted of illegally paying US$500 million to North Korea in 2000.

The pardons were part of yesterday's presidential special amnesty affecting some 1,500 people in commemoration of Buddha's birthday.