President Moon names scholars as key aides for civil, personnel affair

President Moon Jae-in named two outspoken professors as his top secretaries for civil and personnel affairs Thursday.
(From left) Cho Kuk, Cho Hyun-ock, Yoon Young-chan and Lee Joung-do stand before reporters at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on May 11, 2017. (Yonhap)
(From left) Cho Kuk, Cho Hyun-ock, Yoon Young-chan and Lee Joung-do stand before reporters at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on May 11, 2017. (Yonhap)

Cho Kuk, a 52-year-old law professor from Seoul National University, has been appointed the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, a position often held by senior prosecution officials, source from the Yonhap.

The appointment of a civilian to the post comes as the former secretaries under the previous governments have been accused of abusing their power by illegally interfering with, if not preventing, certain investigations by the prosecution.

Woo Byung-woo, the civil affairs secretary under the former Park Geun-hye administration, for instance, is currently facing a trial on several charges that include abuse of power to obstruct the prosecution's investigation into the tragic sinking of the Sewol passenger ferry in 2014.

Cho, a professor, is rather considered an activist. He is also a member of the Supreme Court's Sentencing Commission, which is designed to help the highest court maintain balance and objectivity in its sentences.

When asked how he planned to work with the prosecution in the future, Cho firmly said the presidential secretary for civil affairs had no business with the prosecution regarding their investigations.

The appointment, effective immediately, was announced by Moon's chief of staff Im Jong-seok.

"Cho is considered the best person to support our human rights lawyer-turned-president, who is also not afraid of helping the socially weak," Im told a press briefing.

The president also named Cho Hyun-ock, a visiting professor at Seoul's Ehwa Womans University, as his top secretary for personnel affairs, who is largely tasked with managing human resources at the presidential office.

Lee Joung-do, a former official from the finance ministry, was named the senior secretary for general affairs, tasked with overlooking expenditures and other financial issues at the presidential office, according to Im.

"Appointing a career administrative official to the post, known as the most powerful person behind the curtain, reflects the president's decision to run the presidential office transparently," he said.

The president also named Yoon Young-chan as his chief press secretary.

Holding his first press briefing immediately following the announcement of his appointment, the new press secretary said Hong Nam-ki, the incumbent vice minister of science, ICT and future planning, has been named the chief of the Office of Government Policy Coordination.

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