S.Korea’s president-elect nominates conservative lawmaker as finance chief

Yoon, who takes office on May 10, announced eight cabinet minister nominations, including defence, industry, health and land. All are subject to parliamentary confirmation hearings.

As deputy prime minister, Choo, 62, would double as finance minister and oversee economic policy, replacing Hong Nam-ki.

Choo is a second-term lawmaker in Yoon’s conservative People Power Party. He served 33 years in government roles including vice minister of economy and finance, and vice chairman of the Financial Services Commission.

His nomination came as Asia’s fourth-largest economy faces challenges of quelling decade-high inflation without destabilising markets as recovery from the pandemic continues.

Standing with Choo, Yoon said the nominee would facilitate policy coordination among agencies and with the parliament.

“The current economic situation are extremely serious, and internal and external circumstances are tough,” said Choo told a news conference, citing inflation and slowing growth.

“The new government’s top priority is to stabilise prices and people’s livelihoods.”

South Korea’s economy last year grew 4.0%, an 11-year high, but is expected to slow in 2022 and consumer inflation is at a decade-high of 4.1% amid global supply shocks and disruptions caused by Russia’s invasion into Ukraine.

As a member of the presidential transition committee, Choo has been working to draw up an extra budget plan to support small businesses and the self-employed who have been affected by COVID.

Choo told a separate briefing that he plans to loosen the real estate policies of the outgoing government, including an easing of capital gains taxes and a levy on property ownership.

He did not specify the size of the planned extra budget but said the amount should not destabilise the macroeconomy and markets.

Yoon nominated Lee Jong-sup, a retired military commander who formerly served as deputy chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to be defence minister.

The incoming president is mapping out his foreign policy agenda just as tension flares after North Korea launched a new intercontinental ballistic missile last month.

Lee said he would bolster Seoul’s independent response capability and “maximise U.S. deterrence” to counter the North’s threats.

A team of Yoon’s foreign policy and security advisers said last week they discussed redeploying U.S. strategic assets, such as nuclear bombers and submarines, to South Korea during talks with Washington officials.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Cynthia Kim; Additional reporting by Jihoon Lee; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell, Michael Perry, William Mallard and Jane Merriman)

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