President Park Geun-hye said Monday that she would launch a new Cabinet this week, stressing that the government had no time to spare to reinvigorate the nation's sluggish economy in the second half of the year.
"The second Cabinet is to be launched this week," Park said during a meeting with senior secretaries at Cheong Wa Dae.
"Now (we have entered) a very important phase and we don't have (enough) time. Once the new Cabinet is established, we have to make efforts to revitalize the economy," she said.
She gave orders to the new economic team to come up with a set of policies soon, touching off the importance of deregulation as tool to promote investment and job creation.
The remark was widely seen as an attempt by Park to initiate her state reform drive, which has been delayed because of a continued political row over Cheong Wa Dae's controversial vetting system. But it remains to be seen whether she meant to push ahead with the appointments of the three remaining nominees who failed to get parliamentary endorsement.
Park carried out an extensive Cabinet shake-up last month by replacing eight ministerial posts, in an apparent gesture to move on from the Sewol disaster.
The National Assembly, however, refused to adopt reports on the confirmation hearings for three minister-designates for education, culture and public administration, citing their ethical lapses and other alleged wrongdoings. The nominees needed to win preliminary approval from the parliament by Monday.
By law, the president can ask the National Assembly one more time to confirm her appointment if the confirmation report is not approved 20 days after it was submitted to parliament. From that moment on, the president can go ahead and confirm the nominee to the post regardless of the parliamentary decision. But questions still remain whether Park would begin the procedure in the face of a fierce backlash from the main opposition party.
Park has been taking a reconciliatory approach to the political parties since early this month, inviting floor leaders from the ruling and the main opposition parties to Cheong Wa Dae. During their meeting, Park promised floor leader Rep. Park Young-sun of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy that she will "consider" the main opposition party's demand to withdraw her nominations of Kim Myung-soo and Chung Sung-keun, minister-designates for education and culture.
Kim, a former education professor, faces a series of allegations including plagiarism, while Chung, a former TV news anchor, has come under fire for his past record of drunken driving. Chong Jong-sup, the minister-designate for public administration, has been accused of making speculative real estate investments and receiving preferential treatment while serving in the Army.
According to reports and sources, Park may request the National Assembly to endorse the appointment of Chong, minister-designate for public administration, but she still appears to be indecisive about Kim and Chung due to worsening public sentiments over her choice.
Meanwhile, the opposition party on Monday intensified its attack against Culture Minister-designate Chung, claiming that he allegedly violated US immigration law to have his family stay in the country for a year. Rep. Ahn Min-suk of NPAD claimed that Chung "anomalously" requested a 5-year work visa although he stayed in the country for just nine days while his family returned to Korea a year later. Reportedly, Chung should have applied for a travel visa instead, and abused his position as a journalist so that his children could study abroad.