Han Duck-soo appointed prime minister after rocky confirmation process
President Yoon Suk-yeol appointed Han Duck-soo as prime minister on Saturday following a confirmation by the Democratic Party-controlled National Assembly the previous day.
Han’s appointment comes after nearly 50 days of partisan bickering over the nomination for the position, which is the only Cabinet post that requires parliamentary approval.
Yoon conferred the appointment on Han in the morning at the presidential office in Yongsan District, central Seoul.
Han served as prime minister from 2007 to 2008 during the liberal Roh Moo-hyun administration. During his confirmation hearings, Han said stabilizing the economy for ordinary people would be his top priority as prime minister.
Han, 72, is a veteran bureaucrat with some 40 years of experience working with both liberal and conservative governments. He is also the oldest person to assume the office of prime minister.
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 pursue 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, the last year of Roh Moo-hyun’s presidency, after which he served as ambassador to the United States under conservative president Lee Myung-bak.
Han is known for his instrumental role during Korea-U.S. free trade agreement negotiations, from the start of formal negotiations in 2006 to its signing with the Barack Obama administration in 2011.
Han’s scheduled confirmation process in April was wracked by boycotts by the DP, which has a majority of the seats in the National Assembly, and the Justice Party, which cited his refusal to submit documents related to suspicions that he received overly generous payments from Kim & Chang, the largest law firm in Korea, after his first retirement from politics and the lucrative sales of his wife’s paintings to large companies in Korea.
The boycott resulted in Han’s confirmation hearings being delayed to May 2 and 3, with DP floor leader Park Hong-keun suggesting Han’s nomination could be rejected if Yoon pushed ahead with the appointment of Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon, who took up his post over the DP’s objections on Tuesday.
BY MICHAEL LEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]