President-elect Park Geun-hye has handled appointments for her so-called transition team with the utmost secrecy. The team, a feature peculiar to the Korean democratic process, will be charged with hammering out key policies and ensuring that her ascent to the top office runs smoothly.
Her appointments show her to be a traditionalist through and through, relying on trusted aides and familiar faces.
The identity of none of the candidates on the list was leaked to the media before appointments were announced.
Park makes something of a fetish of secrecy. When the identity of one emergency committee member in the Saenuri Party was leaked to the press late last year, Park complained that a "blabbermouth" existed among the ranks. One person close to Park said the source who was singled out as being the leak had a tough time.
Park considers it a "security breach" if her travel route is revealed and will try to find out who did. "There was an instance in the past when the line-up of officials in her election campaign committee had to be rearranged because of a leak," said one source close to Park.
◆ Trusted Officials
Another of Park's characteristics is that she rarely replaces officials once she trusts them. "As long as no major mistake is made, Park tends to appoint people she's grown to trust," the source said. But she watches the candidate's performance for a long time before making her decision, the source added.
That rule was applied to the appointment of officials for her transition committee. The chairman and vice chairman of the transition committee and even officials selected to head her committees on social unity and youth affairs had served the same roles in her campaign committee. "They were handpicked by Park and have gained her trust," the source said. But another source said the downside of her style is that it is difficult for an official working for her to shake off a bad image even if it is unfair.
◆ Old Hands
Park has also re-appointed officials who have in one way or another had dealings with her or her family. Former chief of the Constitutional Court Kim Yong-joon is the head of Park's transition team. In 1963, Kim freed a high-ranking military official who had been jailed for being critical of Park's father, former President Park Chung-hee.
Han Kwang-ok, former presidential chief of staff for ex-President Kim Dae-jung, her father's nemesis, was put in charge of "social unity," one of her campaign pledges. Jin Young, the vice chairman of the transition committee, has also previously worked with Park but left under something of a cloud. His re-appointment apparently surprised others in Park's camp.
◆ No Regional Preferences
Park has been careful to avoid showing the regional cronyism that tripped up President Lee Myung-bak early in his presidency. None of the chief secretaries and spokespersons come from South Gyeongsang Province, the traditional stronghold of the conservative.
Among the eight vice chairmen of committees under the transition team, four come from the Jeolla provinces, which are traditional rivals of the Gyeongsang region, and three from Seoul. Only one vice chairman comes from the Gyeongsang region.
The head of the transition team, Kim Yong-joon, hails from Seoul, while vice chairman Jin Young comes from North Jeolla Province. Han also comes from North Jeolla Province.
The creation of separate committees within the transition team to promote social unity and address problems facing young Koreans demonstrates Park’s focus on those issues.