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South Korea’s presidential office on Wednesday named a new prime minister and finance minister, the highest-level shake-up yet since President Park Geun-hye’s administration was rocked by a scandal involving a friend accused of meddling in state affairs. The Blue House said it named Yim Jong-yong, the Financial Services Commission chairman, as the new finance minister and deputy prime minister. Yim, who will replace incumbent minister Yoo Il-ho, has been well-regarded by policy makers and market participants in his current role.
Kim Byong-joon, a former senior presidential secretary during former President Roh Moo-hyun’s administration, was named the new prime minister to replace Hwang Kyo-ahn. The prime minister’s role in South Korea is largely administrative.
The moves, which also include a new minister of public safety and security, were seen as an effort to soothe public anger over the scandal involving Park’s friend, Choi Soon-sil, who is in custody and under investigation by prosecutors.
Yim was due to hold a press conference on Wednesday at 0200 GMT, according to his press office.
“The Blue House named Kim as the right person to lead the cabinet for the country’s future and to overcome current hardships,” presidential spokesman Jung Youn-kuk said.
Neither incumbent Yoo and Hwang have been implicated in the scandal, although Yoo had been under pressure from opposition lawmakers over his close relationship with Park.
A public apology from Park on Tuesday for giving Choi access to draft speeches during the first months of her presidency has done little to deflect demands that Park reveal the full nature of her ties with Choi and whether she enjoyed favours because of her friendship with the president.