President-elect Park Geun-hye announced her nominations for four Cheong Wa Dae secretaries on Monday, just a week before her inauguration.
She named Huh Tae-yeol (68), a close political ally and former three-term lawmaker as chief presidential secretary. For senior presidential secretary for government planning she picked Yoo Min-bong (55), a professor at Sungkyunkwan Unviersity who works in her so-called transition team.
Kwak Sang-do, a former prosecutor, is to become senior secretary for civil affairs.
As senior secretary for public relations she chose Lee Nam-ki, the former head of SBS Media Holdings.
All four nominees come from Sungkyunkwan University, prompting even close aides to wonder why.
Park's nominees for prime minister and justice minister, Chung Hong-won and Hwang Gyo-an, also graduated from Sungkyunkwan University.
Since Park plays her cards notoriously close to her chest, it was also unclear why she chose to announce her nominations for only four out of nine senior Cheong Wa Dae secretaries. Officials in the transition team could only speculate that perhaps the screening of the other candidates was not completed yet.
Initial enthusiasm is waning about what looked like a more balanced selection of officials than previous presidents managed. Although her candidates for welfare and labor ministers come from the Jeolla provinces, the traditional opposition stronghold, both have few if any ties to the region other than birth.
And although Park got plenty of campaign mileage out of being a woman, only two out of 17 officials named for top Cabinet positions are women, an even lower ratio than the first Cabinet line-ups of the Lee Myung-bak and Roh Moo-hyun administrations.
Many ruling party officials wonder if Park she ever really considered balancing regional, academic and gender factors in senior posts.
Aides are offering various explanations. "The first priority for the president-elect in naming key officials is ability and expertise," said one. "She probably doesn't feel she needs to balance regional and academic factors just for the sake of it."
The link to Sungkyunkwan University is also accidental, the aide claimed. "Park has never asked where an official under consideration studied."
But other officials close to Park say she may have been pressed for time after the fiasco of her first choice for prime minister, Kim Yong-joon, stepping aside within days over exactly the same scandals that have dogged previous administrations. Otherwise, they say, she would have taken other factors into consideration.