Large-scale Cabinet reshuffle unavoidable

Many heads are expected to roll amid growing public outrage over the government’s lax, inefficient handling of the Sewol ferry disaster.

President Park Geun-hye is likely to carry out a large-scale Cabinet reshuffle, holding a number of Cabinet members accountable for inept responses.

Since the ferry carrying 476 passengers capsized off the country’s southwestern coast last week, the relevant ministries ― the Ministry of Security and Public Administration and the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries ― have failed to cope with the accident effectively from the early stages.

Prime Minister Chung Hong-won is also on the hot seat for incompetent leadership in responding to the crisis on the scene instead of the president.

Kimg Jang-soo, the chief of the National Security Council of the presidential house, is also unlikely to avoid responsibility as he is in charge of disaster management.

Despite no relation to the sinking, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok and National Intelligence Service Director Name Jae-joon, both of whom were criticized earlier this year for unsympathetic remarks and the NIS’s involvement in a spy scandal, may be on the list, as well.

Park strongly criticized the bureaucracy in the government in the wake of increasing distrust in government officials following one of the nation’s deadliest maritime accidents.

“I will make sure to oust public servants interested only in keeping their positions,” she said during a meeting with senior secretaries on Monday.

The two ministries triggered confusion about the number of passengers rescued, the number still missing and repeated mistakes regarding casualty figures.

The Ministry of Security and Public Administration set up a government-wide emergency task force center nearly an hour after the sinking and it reported to the presidential office by text message 39 minutes after word of the accident was received by the fire service center in South Jeolla Province.

As a result, divers did not beging to plunge into the water to rescue possible survivors until five hours after the ship capsized, while it took more than two days to pump air into the boat on the slim hope that survivors were inside and the air would help to lift the ferry.

In addition, in order to monitor real-time rescue operations, families of the missing repeatedly had their demand for a television screen inside Jindo Gymnasium rejected, but just two hours after Park visited there a closed-circuit television as well as a big screen were brought in.

Meanwhile, a high-ranking official of the Ministry of Security and Public Administration, who tried to have a commemorative group photo taken in front of the families of victims, tendered his resignation and the government accepted it on Monday.

Should Park shake up her Cabinet, the heads of some ministries would only end up serving less than two months in their posts. For example, Ocean Minister Lee Ju-young took office in March, while Security Minister Kang Byung-kyu took office earlier this month.

Along with them, there are calls to sack Hyun and Nam, irrespective of the ferry sinking.

The finance minister has been labeled with a question mark for his role as an economic “control tower” and the NIS’s evidence-forgery scandal resulted in Park making a public apology.

The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy has called for the full-scale resignation of the Cabinet, while the Saenuri Party reportedly discussed the reshuffle and expressed its opinion to Cheong Wa Dae amid angry voices against the government and the ruling party. By Kang Seung-woo The korea times

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