|Presidential Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon (Yonhap News)|
President Park Geun-hye is not considering a Cabinet reshuffle, her chief of staff said Thursday, dismissing growing speculations that the president may replace key ministers and presidential secretaries as part of efforts to refresh her government and shore up public support.
“Now is a critical time to plan ahead for sustainable economic development by keeping the embers for economic recovery alive and tighten national security amid a stringent security environment,” Presidential Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon told reporters.
“It is the time for the Cabinet to run state affairs without wavering even a bit. The president is not considering a Cabinet reshuffle at all,” he said in an unusual visit to reporters at Cheong Wa Dae.
The comment came as local media reported heavily on speculations that she would replace some ministers who showed poor performance and others planning to run for local elections slated in June.
Cheong Wa Dae has repeatedly denied the reports.
Speculations grew even bigger since earlier this week after a number of presidential secretaries and high-ranking officials at the Prime Minister’s Office offered to resign.
Presidential spokeswoman Kim Haeng resigned Tuesday, saying she wants to rest after a year at Cheong Wa Dae. Her resignation was followed by two other secretaries in gender equality and justice, leaving three seats vacant at the Blue House.
It was also reported on Wednesday that another 10 high-ranking officials at the Prime Minister’s Office tendered their resignations late last month, all at the same time. Officials hoped to break down the existing seniority system by voluntarily leaving the posts to provide opportunities for younger, talented officials, the reports said.
It was also reported that other ministries are considering accepting voluntary resignations from high-ranking officials. This is to support Park’s efforts to freshen up her government, observers say.
Park entered her second year in office loaded with old problems. Disputes over the National Intelligence Service’s alleged election meddling still haunt her government while key elections are slated for June and July.
In addition, the president is also faced with resistance from across society, cutting her approval ratings to the lowest level since her inauguration in February.
Over 70 percent of respondents said in a recent poll that President Park needs to conduct a Cabinet shake-up to effectively carry out her presidential pledges on creative economy and welfare.
Observers say that the possibility of a Cabinet reshuffle is also high as the president wants to have some of her Cabinet members run for local election in June.
Cho Youn-sun, minister of gender equality and family, has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the Seoul mayoral election in June. Cho who served as spokeswoman for Park’s presidential campaign team, has said that she will not run for the post.
By Cho Chung-un (firstname.lastname@example.org)