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SEOUL, March 22 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye on Friday retained Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin from the previous administration after her nominee for the job was forced to resign over allegations of ethical lapses.
Park made the decision, given the urgent security situation following North Korea's mounting war threats, presidential spokeswoman Kim Haing said in a press briefing.
The current security situation on the Korean Peninsula is so pressing the president believes there is no more time to waste for political disputes or parliamentary confirmation hearings for a new nominee, the spokeswoman said.
"By retaining Defense Minister Kim, who has been recognized for his clear security perspectives and leadership, President Park wanted to stabilize the security crisis and relieve the public anxiety," the spokeswoman said.
Tensions are running high on the Korean Peninsula due to North Korea's repeated threats to wage war in anger over new U.N. sanctions for its latest nuclear test and this week's joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States.
Kim, who served as defense minister under former President Lee Myung-bak, does not have to undergo the parliamentary confirmation process again because he is being retained.
Shortly after the announcement, new finance minister Hyun Oh-seok, Nam Jae-joon, new director of the National Intelligence Service, and Shin Je-yoon, new chief of the watchdog Financial Services Commission, received letters of appointment from Park during a ceremony at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae. The defense minister was present for a photo session.
"North Korea is continuing to raise its level of provocations," the president was quoted by her spokesman as telling the defense minister. "Please do your best with regards to security and public safety by thoroughly determining (the threats) so that the people may not worry and feel anxious."
Hours earlier, Park's defense minister nominee Kim Byung-kwan offered to resign under pressure over a series of alleged ethical lapses, including his link to a local arms broker accused of influence peddling in a controversial project to import faulty German tank parts for the Korean Army. He also faced allegations of bribe-taking, tax evasion and speculative real estate investment.
On Tuesday, local media reported that Kim has shares in an overseas resource developer accused of gaining favors under the Lee Myung-bak administration to win natural gas development projects in Myanmar in 2011.
The main opposition Democratic United Party threatened to take legal action against him for failing to disclose the assets during the confirmation process. Kim claimed to have forgotten to include them in his reports to parliament.
"As the defense minister nominee, I apologize for causing trouble to the people," he said in a brief statement. "I am stepping down from the defense minister nominee post to help normalize government affairs."
The president has been under fire for her personnel selections amid a string of resignations by Cabinet nominees and senior officials who faced allegations of various ethical and other lapses.
On Thursday, Kim Hak-ui, the new vice justice minister, quit after local media implicated him in a sex bribery scandal.
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