South Korea's president reshuffles cabinet, picks new PM

Photo: EPA PM nominee Kim Boo-kyum speaks to reporters in Seoul, 16 April 2021.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday replaced the prime minister and six other cabinet members in a bid to revive his party, after devastating local election defeats, news wires reported. Moon named Kim Boo-kyum, a former interior minister and four-term lawmaker, to succeed Chung Sye-kyun as prime minister, while nominated new ministers of land, industry, fisheries, labour, and science and technology.

All six candidates are subject to parliamentary confirmation hearings, although lawmakers don't have the power to block the appointment if the president presses ahead with formal appointment, Reuters noted.

The reshuffle came about a week after Moon's leading Democratic Party suffered crushing losses in a special elections for key mayoral posts amid political scandals and economic policy blunders.

With the elections seen a litmus test for political shifts ahead of the March 9, 2022 presidential election, the ruling party's defeat signalled a rough ride for Moon's policy agenda, including stopping runaway home prices and reforming powerful the prosecution system. Moon's single five-year term ends in 2022.

New prime minister Kim, who served as mayor of the southeastern metropolitan city of Daegu, could play a key role in bridging political strife and steering anti-virus efforts, Moon's chief of staff You Young-min said. "He's a reformist and dedicated to national unity, and he also had experience of handling disasters and social crises," You told a briefing.

Senior finance official Noh Hyeong-ouk will replace Byeon Chang-heum as the land minister who resigned amid allegations that employees at a state-run property developer used insider information to profit from city development projects. The scandal added fuel to public uproar over skyrocketing apartment prices, which surged 28% since early 2020, KB Kookmin Bank data shows.

Moon Sung-wook, nominated as the new industry minister, is a ministry insider who had worked for years shaping Korea's corporate policy.

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