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.
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.