South Korea president-elect nominates conservative lawmaker as finance minister

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South Korea’s incoming President Yoon Suk-yeol on Sunday named Choo Kyung-ho to be deputy prime minister and finance minister, as the country seeks to tackle surging inflation, household debt and demand for welfare.

Yoon, who takes office in May 10, announced eight cabinet minister nominations, including defense, industry, health and land. All are subject to parliamentary confirmation hearings.

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As deputy prime minister, Choo, 62, would double as finance minister and oversee economic policy, replacing Hong Nam-ki.

Choo is a second-term lawmaker in Yoon’s conservative People Power Party. He served 33 years in government roles including vice minister of economy and finance, and vice chairman of the Financial Services Commission.

His nomination came as Asia's fourth-largest economy faces challenges of quelling decade-high inflation without destabilizing markets as recovery from the pandemic continues.

Standing with Choo, Yoon said the nominee would facilitate policy coordination among agencies and with the parliament.

“The current economic situation are extremely serious, and internal and external circumstances are tough,” said Choo told a news conference, citing inflation and slowing growth.

“The new government’s top priority is to stabilize prices and people’s livelihoods.”

South Korea’s economy last year grew an 11-year high 4.0 percent but is expected to slow in 2022 and consumer inflation is a decade-high 4.1 percent amid global supply shocks and disruptions caused by Russia’s invasion into Ukraine.

As a member of the presidential transition committee, Choo has been working to draw up an extra budget plan to support small businesses and the self-employed who have been affected by COVID-19.

Yoon nominated Lee Jong-sup, a retired military commander who formerly served as deputy chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to be defense minister.

The incoming president is mapping out his foreign policy agenda just as tension flares after North Korea launched a new intercontinental ballistic missile last month.

Lee said he would bolster Seoul's independent response capability and “maximize US deterrence” to counter the North’s threats.

A team of Yoon’s foreign policy and security advisers said last week they discussed redeploying US strategic assets, such as nuclear bombers and submarines, to South Korea during talks with Washington officials.

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