President Park Geun-hye is likely to carry out a sweeping reshuffle of her Cabinet members and senior staff at Cheong Wa Dae within this week, in a move to prevent a further delay in her state reform drive proposed in the wake of the ferry disaster.
Earlier, the president was expected to make a series of replacements after returning from her trip to several Central Asian nations next Saturday. But Park has decided to speed up the process as she appears to have gained confidence in running state affairs. She has been struggling to regain public support amid growing criticism of Cheong Wa Dae for its mishandling of the disaster that killed nearly 300 in April 16.
Park is expected to replace more than a half of her Cabinet members and senior secretaries at Cheong Wa Dae. Sources say that her reshuffle will target about 15 posts. The government currently has 17 ministerial posts and nine senior presidential secretaries.
|President Park Geun-hye and Lee Byung-kee, National Intelligence Service chief nominee, pose for a photo after Park conferred a letter of credence for his appointment as Seoul’s ambassador to Japan in May last year. (Yonhap)|
Speculation about Park’s reshuffle plan spread rapidly a day after she nominated Moon Chang-keuk, a former journalist, as prime minister, and Lee Byung-kee, ambassador to Japan, as chief of the National Intelligence Service. Both nominees need parliamentary approval to take the posts.
Amid growing expectations regarding her Cabinet shake-up, presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook told reporters on Wednesday morning that the president could “possibly” make an announcement before her trip to the three Central Asian nations. Park leaves for a six-day trip to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to enhance relations with the nations, which are expected to crucial role in realizing her vision of a unified Eurasia.
Observers say Park will replace all of her economic team members, including ministers of finance, transport and trade, to give fresh momentum to her economic innovation plan announced earlier this year. Heads of ministries cited as responsible for the Sewol tragedy, the minister of administration, and ministers of education, culture and welfare are also expected to be replaced soon.
Last month, the president announced a series of reform measures and a major government restructuring plan to placate the angry public over the ferry fiasco. Park said she would dismantle the Coast Guard and transfer its core functions to a new ministry to be launched under the Prime Minister’s Office. She said she would name a new deputy prime minister to handle social issues. Currently, the finance minister also serves as deputy prime minister to spearhead overall economic issues.
The series of government reorganization plans was widely seen as an attempt to move on from the ferry tragedy. But without having a new prime minister and other Cabinet members aboard, her reform drive was seen as being pushing back considerably.
Concerns have been growing over a further delay in her state reform drive as Park failed with her PM nomination. Former Prime Minister designate Ahn Dae-hee withdrew himself from nomination two weeks ago amid spiraling controversy over his high income and accusations that he received special favors. The PM nomination debacle threatened her reform drive, but she appears to have weathered the crisis after avoiding a crushing defeat in the local elections. Park said shortly after the elections that she humbly accepts the results of the nationwide local elections and will push forward with her reform agenda in a speedier manner.
But, question remains on whether she will sack Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon, her long-time aide, or let him keep his post.
Park has been under pressure to abandon Kim, who has been criticized for exercising too much power behind the scenes and making a series of unsuccessful and unbalanced nominations, relying heavily on his networks of prosecutors and judges. Kim, former justice minister, is the head of the presidential committee for personnel affairs.
By Cho Chung-un (email@example.com