Yoo picked to help move Park’s reforms into high gear

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Yoo picked to help move Park’s reforms into high gear

The nomination of economist-turned-lawmaker Yoo Il-ho as the third economy czar is seen as an attempt by President Park Geun-hye to drive forward reforms that are currently being held back by opposition lawmakers.

President Park on Monday nominated Yoo, one of her close political allies in the ruling Saenuri Party, as the third deputy prime minister for the economy and finance minister.

The 60-year-old politician also served as transportation minister for eight months from March.

Unlike his predecessors, Choi Kyung-hwan and Hyun Oh-seok, Yoo is not a traditional bureaucrat who took the gosi, the state-run examination to become a civil servant.

How the politician with a doctorate in economics will lead the nation’s most powerful government branch has captured the attention of observers.

Yoo studied economics at Seoul National University and obtained his doctoral degree at the University of Pennsylvania. After returning to Seoul, he joined the Korea Development Institute, the state-run economic think tank, in 1989. He chaired the Korea Institute of Public Finance from 1998 to 2001.

After serving as an economist in the Korean Economic Association until 2005, he entered the political arena in 2008 as an elected lawmaker of the 18th National Assembly. He was re-elected to the 19th National Assembly.

After the announcement, Yoo told reporters in Yeouido, western Seoul, that consistency is important in economic policies and that he will continue with his predecessor’s expansionary fiscal policy.

“The economic policies of the Park government have kept consistency,” Yoo said. “I will not deviate from what has been done, but short-term or super-short-term measures could be employed differently in specific situations.”

The nominee pointed to structural reforms as his top priority as finance minister.

“[The National Assembly] should pass the pending bills related to reviving the economy and reform the labor market soon,” Yoo said. “I will make efforts to do that as early as possible.”

Structural reforms in four areas - labor, finance, the public sector and education - are the Park government’s key agenda for the rest of her presidency, believing the reforms are the only way to secure the economy’s growth.

Although he was cautious about the need for an interest rate hike, Yoo called for preemptive actions to prevent the economy from falling into another global financial crisis.

BY SONG SU-HYUN [song.suhyun@joongang.co.kr]

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