Park carries out first major Cabinet reshuffle

SEOUL, June 13 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye on Friday replaced seven ministers, her first major Cabinet shake-up since taking office last year, as she is struggling to regain public confidence in her government rocked by a deadly ferry disaster.

Park tapped Choi Kyoung-hwan, a lawmaker of the ruling party who served as commerce minister in a previous government, to be the new deputy prime minister for economic affairs.

Choi will replace Hyun Oh-seok as the top official in charge of Asia's fourth-largest economy. Hyun has long been accused of incompetence by both the ruling and opposition parties in pulling the country out of a prolonged slump and handling a string of contentious economic issues.

Park also named new ministers of security and public administration, education, labor, culture, gender equality and family, as well as science, ICT and future planning, presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook said. Under a recent change, the education minister will double as deputy prime minister for educational, social and cultural affairs.

Min said Chong Jong-sup, a professor of law at the Seoul National University School of Law, was named to lead the ministry of security and public administration, which has been under intense public fire for a series of mishaps in handling the April ferry disaster that left more than 300 people dead or missing.

Still, Park retained Oceans and Fisheries Minister Lee Ju-young, though he has repeatedly offered to quit to take responsibility for the poor government response to one of South Korea's worst peacetime disaster.

Park believes that replacing Lee "is not desirable for family members of the victims as it could create a period of vacuum" at a time when the government has yet to fully handle the ferry disaster, Min said.

The announcement came a day after Park replaced four senior presidential secretaries.

The reshuffle is seen as her determination to move on and normalize the government, which has been battered by the ferry disaster.

The shake-up also comes three days before Park leaves for Uzbekistan on a trip that will also take her to Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

Earlier this month, Park tapped Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin as her new national security adviser. Kim's job as the defense chief is set to end in the coming weeks as a nominee to be Park's new defense minister will go through a parliamentary confirmation hearing widely seen as a formality.

The prime minister is the only Cabinet post that requires parliamentary confirmation.

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