September 12, 2023
SEOUL – President Yoon Suk Yeol is likely to carry out a Cabinet reshuffle upon his return to South Korea following his weeklong trip to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Indonesia and Group of 20 summit in India.
According to sources from the presidential office, Yoon, who arrived at the Seoul Air Base at around 6 a.m. Monday, is set to revamp the Cabinet later this week.
Yoon is mulling tapping Rep. Shin Won-sik of the ruling People Power Party for defense minister, according to reports. Shin is a retired Army lieutenant general who became a legislator at the National Assembly in 2020.
The 65-year-old Shin, who accompanied Yoon during his visit in July to eastern European countries including Lithuania and Poland, is considered a candidate to replace Lee Jong-sup, the reports said quoting sources from conservative blocs.
Lee is currently under fire over alleged interference into a probe of the deadly incident where Marine Cpl. Chae Su-geun was swept away by a torrent during a monsoon downpour in July.
Lee is alleged to have urged a senior Marine officer to hold off the investigation for legal deliberations, which the officer refused. The main opposition Democratic Party of Korea proposed to impeach Lee on Monday, saying the minister had been persecuting the officer.
Another candidate for the new Cabinet is Yoo In-chon, Yoon’s special adviser for culture, sports and tourism who formerly served as a culture minister during the conservative Lee Myung-bak administration, according to reports. Yoo, 72, is a veteran actor.
The list of the possible reshuffle includes Gender Equality Minister Kim Hyun-sook, who has been the subject of a state audit by the Board of Audit and Inspection since August over mishandling the World Scout Jamboree held on the reclaimed land of Saemangeum in North Jeolla Province.
A parliamentary hearing for the new nominees, if confirmed later this week, will reportedly convene before the National Assembly’s audit of state affairs that is scheduled to begin in mid-October.
The announcement of the revamp of the Cabinet is expected to come just weeks after the latest move to nominate Bang Moon-kyu, minister of the Office for Government Policy Coordination, for industry minister. He was replaced by the first vice minister of economy and finance, Bang Ki-sun.
Meanwhile, all eyes are on a major reshuffle after the Chuseok holiday in late September, as incumbent ministers and senior presidential officials could take the chance to leave their posts ahead of the general election next year in April.