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S Korean President Aims to Reconfigure Cabinet - 2002-01-28

South Korean President Kim Dae-jung is expected to announce a sweeping cabinet reshuffle this week. Analysts say the move is an attempt to boost the government's image following a series of corruption scandals.

Political analysts expect that President Kim Dae-jung will aim to reconfigure his cabinet into a more politically neutral team to restore faith in the government. Local media reports say Mr. Kim could replace as many as eight ministers.

Scott Snyder, a Seoul representative of the Asia Foundation, an American non-governmental organization, says the move comes at an important moment for the South Korean leader, whose popularity has declined in recent months. Mr. Kim is in the last year of his presidency. "Instead of placing emphasis on a political coalition that would be necessary under normal circumstances, it is a good time to step back and put together a more non-political or non-partisan group of ministers who can focus on the pressing government issues that Kim Dae-jung will face during the remainder of his term," said Mr. Snyder.

While the president has not been accused of any wrongdoing, Mr. Snyder says his public standing has been damaged by a series of corruption scandals involving some of his closest advisors. One case involves Mr. Kim's nephew and his economic secretary, who are alleged to have been involved in a stock manipulation and embezzlement scam. Mr. Snyder says "The current administration has faced quite a number of scandals gates, as they are called in South Korea, following the Watergate precedent. The problem here is that it seems every day or every week there is a new scandal."

The Presidential Blue House said early Monday that the 20-member cabinet would resign Tuesday, paving the way for new appointments. But later, government officials indicated that cabinet members might not resign en masse.