Neutral figure may lead transition

President-elect Park Geun-hye is seriously considering naming a political neutral figure to lead her transition team, insiders said Sunday.

Park cleared her weekend schedule to dedicate herself to forming her transition team, which will be likely made up of 26 committee members along with roughly 80 support staff and 100 dispatched civil servants.

Some of the figures mentioned as a possible chief of the transition team include former Finance Minister Jin Nyum, Park’s top economic advisor Kim Jong-in and Seoul National University sociology professor Song Ho-keun.

Officials of the ruling Saenuri Party speculate that the head of the transition team will likely be someone whose political base is not in the Gyeongsang region, the political home turf of the conservative party.

“It is highly likely that Park will avoid appointing a figure from her hometown or neighboring areas for balanced appointments as opposed to political ones,” a senior party official said.

“There is a good chance that she will name an unexpected figure from the Honam region.”

Honam, which includes Jeolla Province, is one of the least developed areas in the country and the political stronghold of the main opposition Democratic United Party.

Park won 80.8 percent of the vote in the North Gyeongsang Province and 63.1 percent in South Gyeongsang Province in the Dec. 19 election, indicating that regionalism continues to play a key role in Korean politics.

The daughter of the late authoritarian President Park Chung-hee, however, barely managed to pull out double digit support in Honam with the proportion of votes for her standing at 10 percent in South Jeolla Province and 13.2 percent in North Jeolla Province.

Jin is from Buan, and Kim’s hometown is Gochang, both in North Jeolla Province. Song is originally from the Gyeongsang region, also known as Yeongnam, but has been touted as a head of the transition panel for being a respected scholar even among liberals.

Park is likely to appoint her chief of staff as early as today with possible candidates being Lee Jung-hyun, the chief publicist of Park’s election camp and Saenuri lawmaker Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun, the chief of staff during her campaigning. <The Korea Times/Lee Tae-hoon>

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