December 21, 2022
SEOUL – President Yoon Seok-yeol is considering reshuffling in January his first Cabinet for the second year of his term, according to multiple senior officials, with the ministers of industry, culture and interior specifically mentioned.
The presidential office recently completed a performance evaluation of all ministers and vice ministers. Some ministries, including industry and culture, received relatively low scores in their evaluations, local media reported.
A senior presidential official confirmed on condition of anonymity that Yoon is considering replacing the industry and culture ministers.
On Industry Minister Lee Chang-yang, whose response to the US Inflation Reduction Act was reportedly insufficient, the official said, “Korea responded relatively faster to the IRA compared to European countries, but its efforts did not stand out that much.” On concerns the Inflation Reduction Act excludes subsidies for vehicles not produced on American soil, shares of Korea’s largest automakers, Hyundai Motor and Kia, have plunged. They have no manufacturing capability for electric vehicles in the US for now.
Regarding Culture Minister Park Bo-gyoon, the journalist-turned-official’s “capacity itself is lacking,” according to the source.
Interior Minister Lee Sang-min has also been mentioned in the potential reshuffle. Lee has come under pressure from opposition parties and the public to resign over his insufficient initial response to the Itaewon Halloween disaster. Yoon has refused to sack the minister.
Another senior presidential official said, “Yoon does not want to dismiss Lee by being pushed by public opinion. Rather, if the situation calms down, he could replace Lee.”
After the results of the interim investigation by a police special investigation related to the Itaewon disaster and the parliamentary investigation into state affairs are released, Lee would likely be replaced after a voluntary resignation, according to local media outlets.
Meanwhile, Yoon is unlikely to have a New Year’s press conference, viewing the pangovernmental meeting held last week and the ministries’ work reports starting Wednesday as adequate replacements for the press meeting, according to multiple local media outlets.
The presidential office said nothing has been confirmed.
“Currently, we are listening to various opinions to communicate with the public in various ways,” the office said.
The work reports starting Wednesday are to be delivered by Yoon and his ministers directly to the public at several venues across Seoul. It is a departure from the first such reports in July, which Yoon received alone from the ministers. Instead, the ministers and vice ministers, heads of agencies, offices and bureaus, working-level managers, private experts and the general public will share their opinions.
The New Year’s work reports are to “explain in front of the public” the achievements made so far and the national tasks to be pursued next year with their direction and content, the presidential office said.
“It is to speed up the reform drive of the second year of the Yoon Suk-yeol administration through time to discuss with the public and form a consensus,” it said.