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Three S. Korean Ministers Fired

Los Angeles Times

SEOUL, South Korea

President Kim Young Sam, who pledged to uproot corruption in South Korea when he was inaugurated 11 days ago, fired three Cabinet ministers Monday but retained a fourth who had offered to resign for the "misdeeds" of his daughter.

He also acted to put his own stamp on the nation's 625,000-strong armed forces by downgrading the Defense Security Command, the military's spy organization, to a two-star post, replacing the army's chief of staff and naming a new deputy commander of the Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command.

Those ousted from the Cabinet were the justice minister whose daughter, born in the United States, renounced her Korean citizenship and proclaimed herself an American to gain admittance to a Korean university under a special quota for foreigners; the health and welfare minister who was found to have amassed a fortune through questionable real estate dealings; and the construction minister, whose misdeeds had not even been exposed yet. Lee Kyung Jae, Kim's spokesman, said only that they involved "serious corruption."

Last Thursday, Kim instructed the justice minister to order his daughter to renounce her U.S. citizenship, resume Korean nationality and drop out of her university in an effort to spare him from resigning. But on Monday, Kim bowed to public criticism.

However, the president did not accept an offer to resign by his government administration minister, who confessed that his daughter also had gained admittance to college through the same special "foreigners" quota by claiming her American-born nationality. Students admitted under the quota do not have to take a rigid entrance examination, normally the sole basis for selecting college freshmen.

Prosecutor-General Kim Doo Hee was named new justice minister; Koh Byung Woo, head of the Korea Stock Exchange, was picked as construction minister; and a journalist, Seong Jeong Sook, was selected to replace her female predecessor at the Health and Welfare Ministry.