Han Duck-soo nominated by Yoon to be next prime minister
“As a traditional economic bureaucrat, Han served as the vice trade minister, finance minister, prime minister, and as the chairman of the Korea International Trade Association, as well as ambassador to the United States, and accumulated rich experience in the field of economy, trade and diplomacy,” Yoon said during a press conference hosted at the presidential transition committee’s headquarters in central Seoul on Sunday.
“The new government faces the task of rejuvenating the economy amid difficulties both at home and abroad,” Yoon said. “We are in an era where economy and security issues go hand in hand, and we are confident Han, with his background in both the public and private sector, is the right person to carry out state affairs.”
Han, 72, is a veteran bureaucrat with some 40 years of experience working with both liberal and conservative governments.
Beginning his career at the national customs service in 1970, Han headed the U.S. trade bureau at the Trade Ministry in the 1980s, during which time he put his career on hold for a few years to receive a Ph.D. in economics at Harvard University.
He was vice trade minister during the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and 1998 and the conservative Kim Young-sam administration, before he served as director of trade negotiations during the liberal Kim Dae-jung administration.
Han was the 38th prime minister of Korea, serving from 2007 to 2008 in the liberal Roh Moo-hyun administration, after which he served as the ambassador to the United States during the conservative Lee Myung-bak administration.
Han is also known for his instrumental role during the Korea-U.S. free trade negotiations, from the start of formal negotiations in 2006 to its signing by the Barack Obama administration in 2011.
In meeting with the press on Sunday, Han stressed that he will focus on a number of economic and security issues, including ensuring a balance of payments surplus, ensuring high productivity by tackling social inequality, and restoring financial soundness of the nation by adjusting fiscal responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Each country is in the process of normalizing fiscal policies after the excessive hyper-expansion policies,” Han said. “The government will have to respond with mid- to long-term fiscal soundness and stability as an objective.”
Han’s nomination will be finalized when approved by the National Assembly, where liberal Democratic Party holds a majority. For a vote to held in the first place, more than half of the Assembly representatives need to be present. For Han’s nomination to be approved, more than half of those gathered for the vote need to vote for the nomination.
Yoon’s announcement on Sunday was his first nomination announcement since he was elected last month.
Yoon and Han met for around two hours on Saturday, during which time they reportedly discussed their ideas for ideal candidates to head different ministries.
“We have talked through who might be good candidates for the 18 ministries and bureaus,” said Han. “After several years of working for the government, people tend to see eye to eye on who might be best to lead certain bureaus and ministries.”
Former Financial Services Commission Chairman Lim Jong-ryong, who was once floated as a candidate for prime minister, and as the next finance minister after it became clear that Yoon would nominate Han, told Yoon and Han that he cannot take on a public post “for personal reasons,” Han said on Sunday.
Yoon and Han in the press conference on Sunday also mentioned a more equal division of power between the president and prime minister.
“The president-elect has said it would be effective for the overall administration to shift the excessive concentration of power in the Blue House to the cabinet and ministers,” said Han. “I agree with this point.”
If Han is appointed prime minister, he will be the fifth prime minister of Korea to be re-appointed for the post.
BY ESTHER CHUNG [email@example.com]