By Byun Duk-kun
SEOUL, March 8 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in sought to ready his administration for the second half of its term Friday with seven new ministers expected to help enhance his drive to reform the nation and its economy.
The first major reshuffle of the 19-member Cabinet came 22 months after Moon took office in May 2017. His five-year term will end May 2022.
The reshuffle is widely believed to be aimed at enhancing Moon's reform drive as the president is set to enter the latter half of his single five-year term later in the year.
Moon was elected in a rare presidential by-election caused by the ouster of his conservative predecessor Park Geun-hye, who has been convicted of various corruption charges that, if finalized by the Supreme Court, will have her imprisoned for more than three decades.
Such a massive corruption scandal involving the former president apparently forced Moon to commit to various reform measures aimed at changing politics, as well as the way the country runs its business.
Soon after he came into office, Moon initiated a move to amend the Constitution for the first time in more than two decades.
The move was quickly shot down by the opposition-controlled parliament, with the ruling Democratic Party controlling less than half of the 300 seats at the National Assembly.
Moon insists the country can still change the way local politics run even without a constitutional change by implementing changes that can be done more easily through legal revisions.
Such a move, however, will still require majority support at the unicameral house, more the reason the government and its ruling Democratic Party need to win the upcoming parliamentary elections by a greater margin than that in 2016.
The ruling party currently controls 128 assembly seats, while the main opposition Liberty Korea Party has 113 seats.
Against such a backdrop, the president has increasingly voiced the need for "actual" progress that people can appreciate in their everyday lives.
"This year, the goal is to make sure the people will personally realize in their own lives that the government's economic policy is heading the correct way," Moon said while meeting with reporters in a press conference for the new year on Jan. 10. "To do so, we must show progress."
In the latest reshuffle, the president sought to replace three of four lawmaker-turned-ministers with field experts and career bureaucrats believed to be well-versed in the areas they will oversee.
They include Cho Dong-ho, a professor from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, who has been tapped to replace Rep. You Young-min as the science minister.
The latest reshuffle was also aimed at relieving the four ruling party lawmaker-turned-ministers who are expected to run in the parliamentary elections next year, also boosting the party's chance to retain their parliamentary seats.
Lawmakers are not required to relinquish their parliamentary seats before serving a government post, but they are not allowed to stage any election campaigns while concurrently serving as a government official.
While relieving the four lawmakers of their government duties, the president named two new ruling party lawmakers to work as new Cabinet members.
Rep. Park Young-sun was tapped as the new minister for SMEs, with Rep. Chin Young nominated as the minister for the interior.
The move, however, is widely believed to be aimed at enhancing Moon's economic drive amid an apparent failure of his trademark income-led growth strategy to create jobs and spur growth.
The president has been increasingly stressing the importance of small and medium-sized firms and ventures in creating more jobs.
Park, a four-term lawmaker and former floor leader of the ruling party, is expected to help streamline much-needed communication between the government and the ruling party.
Park and Chin may still run in next year's parliamentary race, as long as they quit their government posts before too late.
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