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South Korean Legislature Approves New Prime Minister - 2002-10-05

South Korea has a prime minister again. The country's National Assembly has approved the third nominee put forward by President Kim Dae-jung.

A former supreme court judge won approval to become South Korea's prime minister. The country's parliament overwhelmingly approved Kim Suk-soo on Saturday. Lawmakers rejected two other candidates South Korea's president nominated a few months ago. The post has been vacant since a July cabinet shuffle. President Kim Dae-jung appointed Mr. Kim as acting prime minister last month.

Although the position is primarily ceremonial, the prime minister is responsible for coordinating the work of economy-related ministries. The prime minster would also take over if the president died or was incapacitated.

Two previous candidates, a newspaper publisher and a university president, were rejected for ethical or other reasons.

The 69-year-old Kim's nomination also faced some opposition in the National Assembly. A number of legislators raised concerns about the source of his wealth. Mr. Kim has been a non-executive member of the board of directors at Samsung Electronics, one of the country's best-known exporters. After a 20-year-career in the judiciary, he also headed the commission that oversees voting in South Korea.

The Grand National Party, the main opposition party, offered an olive branch, saying it would cooperate with the new prime minister if he managed the coming presidential election free of political influences.

Polls show the Grand National Party's presidential candidate holds a narrow lead over two other main contenders.

President Kim is attempting to serve out his final months in office without further turmoil. His administration struggled with corruption scandals involving senior officials and members of his own family. He is barred by law from seeking a second five-year term.