Korean PM pledges to sack wayward ministers

Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo on Tuesday unveiled his personnel policy of stern disciplinary measures against high-profile officials who are negligent in their duties or implicated in irregularities.

At his first Cabinet meeting as prime minister since he took office on Feb. 17, Lee said he would push for dismissal of both corruption-ridden and underperforming officials, stipulating that the targets involve ministers, vice ministers, chiefs of state-controlled agencies and other senior officials.

"The Prime Minister's Office plans to conduct overall performance evaluations of them twice a year," he said at the Seoul Government Complex. "According to the Constitution and laws, (the office) would exercise the authority of asking (President Park Geun-hye) to discharge (some of) the Cabinet members."

He clarified that the stern personnel policy was part of the administration's efforts toward economic vitalization and weeding out improper practices in civil service.

"To reach this goal, it is urgent to gain credibility from the public. The state tasks will not be achievable unless there is tightened discipline among government officials," he told the Cabinet members.

The prime minister stressed that "the easygoing attitude from the passive stance is the biggest problem in bureaucratic society."

It is expected that the office would carry out assessments of the ministers and others' performances, with one in each half of the year. The initial results for the first half of 2015 will likely be released in July or August.

President Park Geun-hye and the ruling Saenuri Party are pinning their hopes on the new prime minister as the administration must prevent entering lame-duck status by appealing to the public with its economic policy performance.

Lee also reiterated the urgency of the moves, noting Feb. 25 was the beginning of the third year of Park's five-year presidential term. There are 14 months until the 2016 parliamentary elections and 34 months until the 2017 presidential election.

Later in the day, Lee visited Saenuri Party floor leader Yoo Seung-min and main opposition New Politics Alliance Democracy chairman Moon Jae-in at the National Assembly.

Lee is to undergo an interpellation session with a group of Assembly members, slated for Feb. 25-27. Taxation policy is one of the core issues, which will come under the spotlight among opposition lawmakers.