(LEAD) No plans for Cabinet shake-up: Cheong Wa Dae
(ATTN: UPDATES with background info in last 5 paras; ADDS byline)
By Lee Chi-dong
SEOUL, May 6 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in has no plans to carry out a Cabinet reshuffle in the near future, Cheong Wa Dae emphasized Wednesday, in response to a news report that foreign and defense ministers will likely be replaced next month.
"Currently, a Cabinet shake-up is not being considered at all," Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kang Min-seok told reporters in an unusually quick and clear reaction to media speculation on the sensitive issue.
A Cheong Wa Dae official later said there is no chance that Cabinet members or senior Cheong Wa Dae aides will be replaced in June.
"Even if a related review gets under way today, it takes at least two months" for the screening of candidates and other necessary procedures, he pointed out.
The Munhwa Ilbo evening newspaper, based in Seoul, reported that Moon is apparently planning to bring new faces into his Cabinet and the lineup of his Cheong Wa Dae secretaries, including the chief of staff and director of national security.
Quoting an unnamed "high-profile ruling bloc source," it said the president has already decided to replace his foreign and defense ministers -- Kang Kyung-wha and Jeong Kyeong-doo.
The Cabinet shake-up, expected in June, would affect several other ministers as well, it added.
It cited Chung Eui-yong, director of Cheong Wa Dae's national security office, as a candidate to succeed Kang.
Kang's statement suggests that Moon will not rush to change top policymakers amid relatively strong public support. Multiple polls show his approval rate hovering above 60 percent, high for a South Korean president on the threshold of his third inauguration anniversary.
Many agree that the ruling party's landslide victory in the April 15 parliamentary elections has dimmed the odds of a major policy shift by the Moon administration.
It has rather given renewed momentum to Moon's presidency, which is to reach its third anniversary this weekend, and his reform drive often stalled by staunch opposition from conservatives.
He is widely expected to resume efforts in earnest to improve inter-Korean relations.
Chung Sye-kyun, the second prime minister of the Moon government, took office in December last year. Four months earlier, Moon nominated four new ministers and as many minister-level officials.
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