South Korean President-elect Yoon Seok-yeol is set to name a centrist former prime minister to lead his government, as the ex-prosecutor seeks help in navigating the country’s polarized politics.
Yoon will announce the nomination of Han Duck-soo, 72, as his new administration’s prime minister at 3:30 p.m. local time Sunday, Yonhap reported without citing a source. Han previously held the post from 2007 to 2008 under former progressive President Roh Moo-hyun, before serving as ambassador to the U.S. under his conservative successor, Lee Myung-bak.
The decision to tap a veteran political operator who has experience working on both sides of South Korea’s partisan divide suggests Yoon is seeking to overcome doubts about his ability to deliver. The former prosecutor general has never held elected office before and won by the narrowest margin ever after joining the conservative People Power Party to run against the party of his ex-boss, outgoing President Moon Jae-in.
Moon’s Democratic Party will hold a super majority in the National Assembly at least until the next elections in 2024, posing a big obstacle to any legislative initiatives. Yoon has also promised a sharp break from the current administration’s policies, which includes taking a more market-based economic agenda and a tougher approach to North Korea.
The incoming president has pledged greater cooperation with South Korea’s closest ally, the U.S., including participating in President Joe Biden’s initiatives to shore up supply chains between like-minded nations.
Han, who earned a doctorate degree in economics from Harvard University after studying at Seoul National University, led South Korea’s free-trade agreement negotiations with the U.S. under President Roh. He also led the Seoul’s talks with Pyongyang in 2007, when the two discussed details of a massive aid package to help rebuild impoverished infrastructure north of the Demilitarized Zone.
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