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Will a former doctor become Moon’s first health minister?Career bureaucrats likely to fill vice-ministerial post
  • By Kwak Sung-sun
  • Published 2017.05.12 11:07
  • Updated 2017.05.16 13:12
  • comments 0

As President Moon Jae-in has set about to form his first Cabinet, healthcare industry’s attention is on who will become the health-welfare minister with several names already being bandied about for the portfolio.

Among those high on the potential list are Kim Yong-ik김용익, head of the Institute for Democracy민주연구원, Rep. Yang Seung-jo양승조 of the Democratic Party더불어민주당 and Yang Bong-min양봉민, former professor of Seoul National University서울대, according to sources familiar with the process Friday.

The three people high on the list of candidates for President Moon’s first health-welfare minister are (from left) Kim Yong-ik, a former doctor, Yang Seung-jo, an incumbent lawmaker, and Yang Bong-min, a former professor.

People in medical and political communities cite Kim, a former doctor, as the most likely candidate. Kim served as one of the heads of the DP’s policy-making department during campaigns, responsible especially for working out Moon’s election pledges in the healthcare area.

Kim has a lot of interest in medical service delivery system and a conviction that the industry should restructure small- and medium-sized hospitals with 300 beds or fewer. A graduate of Seoul National University College of Medicine, Kim worked as a professor at his alma mater. He also has experiences in administering state affairs by serving as late President Roh Moo-hyun’s senior secretary for social policy. Given the Moon administration has to take over government operation immediately, and without a transition period, Kim’s experiences may likely work as a plus factor in selecting the health minister.

Four-term lawmaker Yang is a former lawyer but has high expertise in health and welfare issues as he has spent most of his parliamentary years at the National Assembly’s Health and Welfare Committee. He is also the chairman of the committee now. Yang’s primary concern is how to rectify the nation’s chronic problem of low birthrate and population aging.

Former Professor Yang is a health economist who graduated from Seoul National University and received his Ph. D. at Pennsylvania State University. He has called for enhancing public healthcare and reforming health insurance and medical system, which earned him a label of reform-minded academic. Yang worked at Park Geun-hye’s campaign headquarters during the 2012 election, however.

There is also a talk within political community that aside from the three, a fourth candidate could emerge as the top healthcare policymaker.

Career bureaucrats’ concern is also on who would be the vice minister. Given President Moon has called for enhancing the responsibility and expertise of the ministry while promising to restrain fiscal agency’s intervention in social insurance, he is more likely to promote officials from within than to pick an outsider, the sources said.

In that case, next vice minister will likely come from four assistant ministers. They are Kwon Deok-chul권덕철, head of the Office of Planning and Coordination, Kim Kang-lip김강립 of the Office of Healthcare Policy, Lee Young-ho이영호 of the Office of Social Welfare Policy, and Lee Dong-wook이동욱 of the Office of Population Policy.

All the four assistant ministers passed the state exam for higher civil service in different years while hailing from different provinces, meaning their regional background could exert influence on Moon’s choice, the sources said.


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