SEOUL, South Korea's defense ministry has recommended the presidential office lease a new plane for presidential overseas trips, an official said Thursday.

Cheong Wa Dae has used a modified Boeing 747-400 airliner leased from Korean Air under a 2014 deal worth 142.1 billion won (US$127.2 million).

The five-year contract is to expire in March 2020.

"(We) made a suggestion to the National Security Office and the Presidential Security Service that (Cheong Wa Dae) replace the aged jet with a new one," the ministry official said.

The current 200-seat VIP jet was produced in 2001.

Purchasing a plane can be another option, but the budget is a problem.

"Cheong Wa Dae has not made any decision yet," the official added.

It also remains uncertain whether the presidential office will renew a contract with Korean Air, which has come under harsh public criticism over the owner family's alleged bullying of some employees and subcontractors and suspected violation of customs and other laws.

Source: Yonhap News Agency