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South Korean President Nominates New PM Amid Political Crisis

  • VOA News

South Korean protesters wearing masks of South Korean President Park Geun-hye, right, and Choi Soon-sil, who is at the center of a political scandal, stage a rally calling for Park to step down in downtown Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 2, 2016.

South Korean protesters wearing masks of South Korean President Park Geun-hye, right, and Choi Soon-sil, who is at the center of a political scandal, stage a rally calling for Park to step down in downtown Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 2, 2016.

South Korean president Park Geun-hye named replacements for the prime minister and two other top officials Wednesday. But opponents vowed to block the appointments, calling them an attempt to distract attention from an ongoing investigation into possible influence-peddling by a longtime friend of the president.

Park nominated Kim Byong-joon, a professor at Kookmin University, as the new prime minister. Her spokesman called Kim a "well-qualified person who could overcome various dilemmas [the country is] facing right now and lead a solid cabinet for the future of South Korea."

Park also nominated South Korea's Financial Services Commission chairman, Yim Jong-yong, to be the finance minister and deputy prime minister, and Park Seung-joo was named to head the Ministry of Public Safety and Security.

The appointments are seen an attempt to win favor with the conservative Park's opposition. Kim and Park Seung-joo both served in the administration of former president Roh Moo-hyun, a liberal.

But opposition parties quickly condemned the move, complaining the nominations were announced without consulting parliament, and calling the surprise appointments a diversion from the ongoing scandal.

"Park is attempting to overcome the crisis by implementing a reshuffle that only looks like a neutral Cabinet from the outside by tapping officials who served under a liberal administration," said Democratic Party leader Rep. Woo Sang-ho.

The Yonhap News Agency reported that opposition parties plan to boycott Kim's confirmation hearings, which would block him from assuming the prime minister's post.

Also Wednesday, Choi Soon-sil, the woman at the center of a scandal embroiling the South Korean president, returned to prosecutor's offices for a third day of questioning.

Although she has no government post, Choi is alleged to have exercised “cult-like” control over President Park, and to have exploited her personal relationship with the president to coerce large corporations to donate over $68 million, which she then embezzled.

Polls show Park's approval rating around 10 percent and thousands rallied in Seoul over the weekend demanding the president resign.

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