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Monday, May 24, 1999 Published at 05:58 GMT 06:58 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

DJ's reform-boosting reshuffle

South Korean conglomterates are under pressure to reform

The South Korean cabinet has been extensively reshuffled in a move which is being interpreted as a sign that President Kim Dae-jung plans to speed up his economic reform and re-unification programme.

BBC Seoul Correspondent Andrew Wood: The government needs to prove its economic policies are working
It is the first time Mr Kim, known popularly as DJ, has overhauled his cabinet since taking power 18 months ago.

Two of the president's closest advisors have been moved into key roles.

Kang Bong-kyun, an outspoken critic of the power of South Korea's giant industrial conglomerates - known as chaebol - moves from being chief presidential advisor on economic affairs to become the new Economy and Finance Minister.

Slow pace

[ image: The president is said to be dissatisfied with the pace of reforms]
The president is said to be dissatisfied with the pace of reforms
Analysts say Mr Kang is more reform-minded than his predecessor and his appointment will place added pressure on chaebol managers to slim-down their empires.

"The president has been displeased with the slow reform pace of top chaebol," Mr Kim's outgoing spokesman Park Ji-won told reporters on Monday.

Together with Lee Hun-Jai, who retains his position as head of the powerful Financial Supervisory Commission, Mr Kang is seen as a driving force behind President Kim's efforts, in the wake of Asia's economic crisis, to rebuild what was once the world's 11th largest economy.

BBC Economics Correspondent Andrew Walker: The IMF thinks Korea's reform effort is going well
BBC Economics Correspondent Andrew Walker says that in recent months South Korea has shown promising signs of recovery but there are concerns among some independent economists about how durable the recovery in Korea will be.

'Sunshine policy'

[ image: Mr Kim is keen to reduce tensions along the border with the North]
Mr Kim is keen to reduce tensions along the border with the North
Amongst other key appointments, Mr Kim's chief advisor on foreign affairs, Lim Dong-won, takes on the task of coordinating efforts at reunification with North Korea as the new National Unification Minister.

Mr Lim, known as a firm advocate of the president's "sunshine policy" towards North Korea, was in Tokyo at the weekend for talks with US envoy William Perry ahead of his landmark visit to the North later this week.

Since his appointment, President Kim has spoken widely of beginning a new chapter in relations with Pyongyang based on greater economic and diplomatic engagement.

In all, 11 new appointments were made in the president's 18-strong cabinet.

A presidential spokesman said the intention was to create a cabinet to push the reform programmes more vigorously.

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