SEOUL — South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak is expected to replace six ministers including the finance chief and the official in charge of North Korean affairs in a cabinet reshuffle, according to reports. The changes were seen as an attempt to revitalise his administration, especially in light of by-election setbacks for the conservative ruling party last week.
Posts likely to change hands are unification — which oversees cross-border relations — finance, agriculture, environment, land and justice, Yonhap news agency quoted an unidentified presidential aide as saying.
The changes would be announced around 7 pm (1000 GMT), the aide said. A presidential spokesman declined comment.
The upcoming reshuffle is expected mostly to affect those who have been in government for more than two years or who have already offered to resign, the agency and other news media said.
Yonhap said Yu Woo-Ik, one of Lee’s closest aides, was expected to replace Hyun In-Taek as unification minister. Yu, previously presidential chief of staff, is nearing the end of his term as ambassador to China.
Lee was previously reported to be reluctant to replace the unification minister for fear it would send the wrong signal to North Korea. Hyun took a tough stance with the North, stressing Seoul’s policy of making major aid conditional on progress in nuclear disarmament.
Cross-border relations are at their lowest ebb in a decade, after the South accused the North of torpedoing one of its warships with the loss of 46 lives in March last year.
The North angrily denied responsibility but last November shelled a frontline island, killing two South Korean civilians and two marines.
Lee, who is constitutionally barred from standing again, ends his term in February 2013. A general election will be held in April next year and the presidential poll in December 2012.
His Grand National Party won only one of three by-elections it was contesting last week.