South Korean president names new prime minister
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak named an economics professor as his new prime minister on Thursday as part of a Cabinet reshuffle ahead of by-elections, AP reported.
The shake-up also included the defense minister and five other ministers, presidential spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye told reporters.
Seoul National University Professor Chung Un-chan was nominated to replace Han Seung-soo as prime minister, she said. The appointment is subject to parliamentary approval following a confirmation hearing.
The prime minister is the second-highest official, but is largely a ceremonial position.
"As a leading economics scholar in the country, nominee Chung is expected to faithfully back Lee's policy of supporting the working class," the spokeswoman said.
Lee also named Gen. Kim Tae-young, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as his new defense minister. He also replaced the ministers of justice, knowledge economy, labor, and gender equality, and named a ruling party lawmaker as a newly created special minister handling political affairs.
Unlike the prime minister, the National Assembly does not have the power to reject the appointments of other ministers.
The reshuffle came days after Lee replaced a political aide and three other senior presidential secretaries. It also came ahead of parliamentary by-elections in October.
Lee has been urged by ruling party members and conservative newspapers to shake up his Cabinet to help restore public confidence since his party failed to win any of five parliamentary seats in April by-elections, amid economic difficulties and high tensions with North Korea, both of which have since eased.
South Korean presidents often use personnel appointments to regain public confidence.