President Moon Jae-in was expected to replace his top aides, including senior presidential secretary for civil affairs Cho Kuk, as early as Thursday.
Cho, the longest serving senior presidential secretary in Moon’s office, will be succeeded by Kim Jo-won, chief executive of Korea Aerospace Industries, sources said.
“We are in the final stage of vetting candidates for the three senior presidential secretary posts for civil affairs, jobs and civic society,” a source was quoted as saying on Wednesday by Yonhap News Agency.
“We have decided to announce the personnel changes this week, as early as Thursday.”
Moon is believed to have moved up the replacement of his top presidential aides because of the upcoming Cabinet reshuffle as well as general elections slated for April next year.
Cho is seen as likely to be named as the nominee for justice minister in the Cabinet reshuffle next month.
As a longtime advocate of judicial reform, he is trusted by Moon to lead the drive to launch a new investigative agency for senior government officials and adjust the investigative rights between the prosecution and the police.
Cho has served as Moon’s senior secretary for civil affairs for two years and two months, since Moon took office in May 2017. The longest serving senior presidential secretary for civil affairs ever was Moon himself, who served in the post under President Roh Moo-hyun for two years and four months.
Political observers conjecture that after he leaves the presidential office, Cho would take some time before starting to prepare for the confirmation hearing for justice minister.
As Cho has recently been outspoken on social media about Japan’s export restrictions on Korea, which is widely seen as retaliation for the Korean top court’s rulings that ordered Japanese companies to pay reparations to Korean victims of forced labor during the World War II.
Kim Jo-won, who has been tapped as Cho’s successor, had served as presidential secretary for public office discipline in the Roh administration.
A civil servant since 1978, Kim worked for more than 20 years at the Board of Audit and Inspection.
Kim joined Moon’s election camp to lead a group of retired bureaucrats supporting Moon and was named chief executive of KAI in October 2017.
Along with Cho, senior presidential secretaries Jung Tae-ho on jobs and for civic society Lee Yong-sun are expected to be replaced this week.
By Kim So-hyun (email@example.com)