S Korea president under pressure to sack chief of staff

S Korea president under pressure to sack chief of staff
Kim Ki-choon

S KOREA - Presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-choon is drawing yet more fire from opposition parties in the wake of Ahn Dae-hee withdrawing his nomination for prime minister.

Since the Sewol ferry disaster, the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy has been stepping up pressure on President Park Geun-hye to remove Kim from office.

The NPAD and other opposition parties accuse Kim of being responsible for Park's long string of failed nominations for high-level government posts, which they refer to as a "personnel management disaster."

"I once again stress that Kim is ultimately responsible for the vetting system," NPAD floor leader Rep. Park Young-sun said.

As the chief of staff, Kim doubles as the head of the president's personnel management committee. In the eyes of the opposition, Kim is far more than just a chief of staff. He is member of a group of key Park associates known simply as the "group of seven." He also boasts long-running ties to the president that go back to the time of her late father, former President Park Chung-hee.

Criticism and opposition from progressives have followed Kim from the moment he was named presidential chief of staff. Kim's long experience as a prosecutor specialising in anticommunist cases has incited an outcry from opposition parties.

The time he spent in the intelligence agency, which was often used by dictatorial regimes of the past to manipulate politics and public opinion, has been a thorn in the opposition's side.

Rep. Park Jie-won, a close associate of late President Kim Dae-jung, accused Kim of having the "logic of political manipulation."

Although no connection has been found, the opposition holds that Kim is likely to have been involved in a series of unusual cases involving the National Intelligence Service. Opposition figures have linked Kim to the NIS' attempt to manipulate public opinion in the 2012 presidential election and the removal of Chae Dong-wook as the prosecutor general. Conspiracy theorists have also linked Kim to the timing of the Lee Seok-ki case. Lee is accused of planning a revolt, and the case was made public just as the NIS was coming under heavy fire for allegedly meddling in the 2012 presidential elections.

Kim, for his part, appears unfazed by the mounting pressure and snowballing accusations.

While opposition parties call for his removal day in day out, Kim appears more concerned with protecting his name than clearing himself of the accusations.

On Wednesday, Kim filed a criminal complaint against former chief of Busan High Prosecutors' Office Sim Jae-ryun for defamation.

On May 25, Sim claimed that Kim could have influenced the investigation into the Odaeyang case of 1991, involved a mass suicide of a cult linked to the Sewol ferry's de facto owner Yoo Byung-eon.

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