President Lee Myung-bak is expected to carry out a minor Cabinet reshuffle early next month that could affect at least four ministers, which likely includes the agriculture minister, who was in charge of handling the recent foot-and-mouth disease crisis, an official said Thursday.
The reorganization is expected to take place about one to two weeks after the April 27 by-elections, the official said. Lee could also replace some of the ambassadors to four major nations ― the U.S., China, Japan and Russia ― even before the elections, other sources said.
“At least four ministers will be replaced” after the election, a senior presidential aide said.
Ministers likely to be replaced include Agriculture Minister Yoo Jeong-bok, who has already offered to step down over the massive outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease that has hit the country’s livestock industry hard, as well as Environment Minister Lee Maan-ee, who’s also been criticized for the epidemic.
Others subject to the reshuffle could include Finance Minister Yoon Jeung-hyun, and Land, Transport and Maritime Minister Chung Jong-hwan. .
Should the four ministers be replaced, the envisioned new Cabinet would have a fresh lineup of ministers handling affairs directly affecting people’s livelihoods, a source close to the ruling party said. The presidential office Cheong Wa Dae has been conducting a screening process for possible minister candidates, sources said.
It was unclear whether the upcoming reshuffle would affect Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon or Unification Minister Hyun In-taek.
The two could keep their posts because Kim still has jobs to finish over a series of free trade agreements and the replacement of Hyun, who has taken a hard-line on North Korea, could give the wrong signal to Pyongyang.
In other areas, former Ambassador to the European Union Park June-woo and former First Vice Foreign Minister Shin Kak-soo are being talked about as candidates for the new ambassador to Japan while former National Intelligence Service Deputy Director Kim Sook is considered to be among candidates for the new envoy to China.
Ambassador to the U.S. Han Duck-soo, however, could be allowed to stay in the job so that he can continue to oversee efforts in Washington to get the free trade agreement with the U.S. ratified.
Ambassador to Russia Lee Youn-ho could also remain in the job as it has not been long since he assumed the post, sources said.