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S. Korean Parliament Approves New PM - 2003-02-26

South Korea's National Assembly has approved South Korean president President Roh Moo Hyun's choice for prime minister. The new prime minister is no stranger to the job.

For former Seoul mayor Goh Kun, it will be his second time around as prime minister. He held the post in 1997 and 1998 during the administration of President Kim Young-sam.

But he is likely to find the largely ceremonial post more of a challenge this time; President Roh has promised more power to his prime minister.

Mr. Goh's appointment was approved by a 2-1 margin in the National Assembly, which is controlled by the opposition.

President Roh, after his inauguration on Tuesday, spent his first full day in office without a cabinet, while two rival political parties bickered over voting on Mr. Goh's appointment and a proposal to investigate a North Korea payoff scandal.

The delay prevented the president from announcing his cabinet because the South Korean constitution says the president must consult with the prime minister before appointing cabinet ministers.

Mr. Goh, in a statement made less than an hour after the vote, vowed to revitalize South Korea's economy and said he would do his best to settle contentious issues with North Korea, notably Pyongyang's suspected nuclear weapon ambitions.

In a reference to the subway fire in Taegu last week that killed more than 180 people, Mr. Goh said he would implement a stronger anti-disaster system to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

During his four-year term as Seoul mayor, the veteran bureaucrat was known as "Mr. Clean" for his campaign against government corruption. Mr. Goh, in addition to being a former prime minister and mayor, was governor of South Cholla Province. He has held a number of ministerial positions and was president of Myongji University.

After the cabinet is formed, Mr. Goh will hold the second highest post in government. If the president is killed or incapacitated, the prime minister assumes power.