Pope Francis is poised to announce the first new cardinals of his pontificate, one of whom could be Korean.
According to Vatican tradition, the new cardinals are expected to be announced this week or by Jan. 20 at the latest. Around 12 to 14 new cardinals are expected to be appointed. There are now only 106 cardinals under 80 who have the right to elect the pope, short of the required 120.
The Korean Catholic church believes there is a strong chance that one of its clergymen will be on the list. There have been two Korean cardinals so far -- Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, who died in 2009, and Nicolas Cheong Jin-suk (83).
Cheong retired in June, 2012, raising hopes of a new Korean cardinal, but the abrupt resignation of Pope Benedict XVI in February, 2013 has postponed the process.
Han Hong-soon, who was Korea's ambassador to the Vatican until November last year, said the "timing is ripe" for a Korean cardinal to be appointed given the country's importance in the Catholic church.
The prime candidate is Andrew Yeom Soo-jung (71), the archbishop of the Seoul Archdiocese, which is the birthplace of Catholicism in Korea and home to a quarter of the country's worshippers. Another candidate is Gwangju archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong (67).