Park to stick to current Cabinet for June polls

President Park Geun-hye is expected to engage in a large-scale reshuffle of her administration in the wake of the government’s ham-fisted responses to the Sewol tragedy.

However, most observers say that the shake-up will take place either after the June 4 local elections or just before them to help the governing Saenuri Party.

Park is also predicted to apologize for her administration’s mishandling of the country’s worst maritime disaster in two decades. More than 300 are confirmed dead or listed as missing.

“If Park comes up with a Cabinet reshuffle soon, new candidates will go through tough parliamentary hearings. Some of them will fail so as to burden the ruling party just ahead of the elections,” said Professor Lee Jun-han of Incheon National University.

“Hence, she will appoint new nominees after the elections or just before them so that hearings will not affect the elections.”

Political commentator Hwang Tae-soon said that all the Cabinet members may have to step down en masse as well as presidential secretaries and some other top officials, including spy master Nam Jae-joon.

“Under our system, the presidential chief of staff is the de facto control tower of the administration. In that sense, Kim Ki-choon will have to take responsibility,” Hwang said.

“National Intelligence Service chief Nam should also be subject to replacement considering the controversies he has generated.”

Also at issue is when Park will express her regrets for the catastrophe.

In a meeting with her senior secretaries on April 21, five days after the accident, Park lashed out at bureaucrats and maritime officials who bungled the early response to the sinking of the 6,825-ton boat off the southwestern coast.

But she did not apologize herself. That prompted Ahn Cheol-soo, co-chairman of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, to criticize Park for passing the buck to her subordinates.

Park’s aides said that the President cannot apologize “every minute or every hour” and she would do so after the rescue efforts are almost completed.

Experts worry that this might be too late.

“From the perspective of the victims of the submerged Sewol, what would be most important? It would be the return of their loved ones and the successful search for their dead before they decompose beyond recognition,” said journalist-turned-commentator Kim Jong-bae.

“Then comes the apology of President Park, who is in charge of state affairs. But I think that she is overly sticking to procedure. She has already missed the right time to make an apology.”

Prime Minister Chung Hong-won tendered his resignation Sunday morning and President Park accepted it in principle, according to her spokesman Min Kyung-wook.

Chung will lead the Cabinet before the search and rescue operations of the Sewol come to an end. More than 100 people are still unaccounted for and recovery operations are expected to take a long time.

In the long-term, Park is projected to carry out wide-ranging reforms to prevent the recurrence of such a tragedy. By Kim Tae-gyu The korea times

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