Korean President under pressure to replace key staff

President Park Geun-hye was widely rumored Wednesday to be considering a major reshuffle soon in the wake of a power struggle scandal between her former aide and her brother.

According to reports and political sources, the president will conduct a sweeping shake-up this month as soon as the prosecution completes its investigations into Chung Yoon-hoi, who is accused of meddling in state affairs, and former presidential staff suspected of leaking documents to the media.

Some suggested that the president is considering replacing Prime Minister Chung Hong-won, Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon and other Cabinet members before she holds a press conference in January, where she will be presenting her vision for state management in her third year in office. She would attempt to regain public confidence and to start afresh with a new lineup, they said.

Cheong Wa Dae said on Thursday that the office was "listening closely to the public demand for a reshuffle."

"We are listening carefully to public opinion," presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook told reporters. "We are paying close attention to the reform measures all of you have proposed and noble opinions offered by the press."

Min's remarks on Thursday were in contrast to those on the previous day, when he told reporters that he was not aware of the president's intention of any reshuffle.

The slight change in Min's approach toward the demand for reform was seen as Cheong Wa Dae's gesture to reassure the public that the office is "open" to the people's request.

Cabinet reshuffles or other personnel shake-ups were conducted by past presidents when they were facing a political crisis and attempting to regain public confidence.

Some officials at Cheong Wa Dae said they were pessimistic about Park conducting a reshuffle, noting that the president had been opposing to the idea of presenting a fresh lineup in order to stabilize the political situation.

However, some ruling party lawmakers have been calling for a sweeping change to her lineup.

"Cheong Wa Dae needs to present a new measure for reform that can win public support," said Rep. Kim Tae-ho, a member of the Saenuri Party's supreme council.

Rep. Hong Il-pyo also stressed the need for change and urged Park to give more authority to Cabinet members.

President Park conducted a major reshuffle in June in the wake of Sewol tragedy that killed more than 300 people. She tried to replace the incumbent Prime Minister Chung but ended up retaining him after two nominees withdrew their nominations in the face of strong public opposition over their alleged ethical misdeeds.

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