Park names former veteran prosecutor to be first prime minister

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Park names former veteran prosecutor to be first prime minister

   President-elect Park Geun-hye on Friday named Chung Hong-won, a former veteran prosecutor who served as the ruling party's election nomination chief, to be the first prime minister of her incoming government.   Park also named former Defense Minister Kim Jang-soo to lead the office of national security to be established at the presidential office, in a symbolic gesture underscoring her commitment to national security amid high tensions over North Korea's threat to conduct a nuclear test.   The national security office is expected to serve as a "control tower" in security affairs.   Former Army Chief of Staff Park Heung-ryul was named to head the Presidential Security Service, deputy transition team chief Chin Young said.   Chung, 69, now a lawyer, is Park's second choice for South Korea's No. 2 post after her earlier selection, transition team chief Kim Yong-joon, gave up his nomination last week following allegations of a series of speculative land deals and other ethical lapses.   His nomination is subject to parliamentary approval after a confirmation hearing.   Chung earned "respect and confidence" from the legal circle due to his "firm view" of national interests, strict separation of private and public affairs, and well-rounded personality while serving more than 30 years at the prosecution, Chin said.   "I do not have any splendid career, and I think I am an ordinary person," Chung said in a press conference. "My understanding of the president's intention in putting an ordinary person like me in an important position is that she will put emphasis on (caring for) ordinary people."   In South Korea, the prime minister is second in line to the president, but the position has been limited to a largely ceremonial role as power is heavily concentrated with the president. Park has pledged to have the prime minister take on greater responsibilities in her government.   Chung said his job would be to provide the president with right and accurate assistance.   The nomination of Chung shows that Park is filling her staff with people she had previously worked with and trusts. Chung worked for Park as chief of her party's candidate nomination committee when she took pains to rebuild the party's image ahead of last year's parliamentary elections.   Chung passed the state bar exam in 1972 and then worked as a prosecutor in various posts, including head of the district prosecutors' office in the southern cities of Gwangju and Busan. After retirement, he also served as a member of the National Election Commission and head of the state-run Korea Legal Aid Corporation.   The office of national security, which Park plans to create in her presidential office, is expected to play the role of a "control tower" on foreign policy and national security issues. Ex-defense chief Kim has been widely considered one of the strongest candidates to head the new office.   Kim, who served as defense minister in 2006-2008 under late President Roh Moo-hyun, won conservative acclaim after he was shown standing upright without bowing as he shook hands with then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il during the 2007 inter-Korean summit.   That earned the former Army general the moniker, "Gen. Upright."   Kim later joined the conservative ruling party as a lawmaker in the previous parliament, and has been working as chief of the transition team's subcommittee on foreign policy and national security.   "Former Minister Kim was named in consideration of his rich experiences and expertise in national defense and security," Chin said, praising Kim for his firm belief in national security and saying he has smoothly handled major security issues.   Kim said he feels a heavy responsibility taking over as chief of the national security office "at a time of security crisis," referring to heightened tensions over North Korea's nuclear test threat.   "I will maintain good cooperation with the current government and make necessary preparations so that I can carry out my duties immediately upon the presidential inauguration," he told Yonhap News Agency.   Friday's announcement was the first round of nominations for the Park administration. A second round of nominations will be announced after the Lunar New Year holiday that ends on Monday and are expected to include defense minister, foreign minister and other Cabinet members.   Park, set to be sworn in on Feb. 25, has been pressed for time in forming the incoming government after the surprise resignation of her first choice for prime minister forced her to put extra care into vetting candidates to ensure another nomination won't be derailed.   Some have raised concern that the new government may launch in an incomplete form as the parliamentary confirmation process for Cabinet positions could take up to 20 days. But transition team officials have shrugged off such concern, saying they see no problem in getting everything done before Park's inauguration. [YONHAP]
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