South Korea’s Han Duck-soo tapped to return as prime minister



SEOUL: South Korea’s presidential transition committee on Sunday (Apr 3) named Han Duck-soo, a former prime minister with expertise in economy, trade and public affairs, to return to that post to lead the Cabinet of the President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol’s administration.

The 72-year-old was prime minister during the Roh Moo-hyun administration from April 2007 to February 2008. He spent more than 40 years in the public sector, including the customs agency, trade ministry and finance ministry. He was later the ambassador to the United States.

The prime minister in South Korea, unlike some others, is appointed by the president, rather than being elected, and must be approved by parliament.

The nomination comes as President-elect Yoon from the opposition conservative party is set to take office next month.

Yoon is a former prosecutor general who has never held elected office before but Han’s experience working on both sides of South Korea’s partisan divide is expected to play a crucial role in helping the incoming administration reshape the political future of Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

“He has built a wealth of experience in economy, trade and diplomacy … and is considered the right person to carry out state affairs,” President-elect Yoon told a news conference.

The position is largely administrative but the prime minister oversees ministries, deliberates major state affairs and acts on behalf of the president.

Previously, Han led the nation’s free trade agreement with the United States and talks with Pyongyang in 2007 where the two discussed details of a massive aid package to help rebuild the impoverished North’s infrastructure.

Incoming Yoon faces challenges to curb runaway home prices and rising household debt amid inflationary risks and a growing wealth gap, while he also faces headwinds from global supply disruption and higher energy prices.

That adds to the already complicated situation for Yoon as outgoing President Moon Jae-in’s Democratic Party holds nearly 60 per cent of 295 seats in the National Assembly.

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