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(2nd LD) President Moon names prime minister nominee, chief of staff

All Headlines 16:15 May 10, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details, remarks from spy agency chief nominee in paras 3-8; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, May 10 (Yonhap) -- New South Korean President Moon Jae-in took a first step in forming his new government Wednesday, announcing his choices for top posts of the Cabinet, spy agency and presidential secretariat.

In his first news conference since Tuesday's election, Moon announced his nomination of Lee Nak-yon, the incumbent governor of South Jeolla Province, as the new prime minister, as earlier reported by Yonhap. If confirmed by parliament, he will replace outgoing Hwang Kyo-ah.

Suh Hoon, a former official at the National Intelligence Service, was named to head the spy agency, an appointment apparently aimed at thawing Seoul's soured relations with Pyongyang.

Introducing the former spy agency official, Moon noted he had helped organize both of only two cross-border summits held with the communist North.

Later, speaking to reporters Suh stressed the need for a third inter-Korean summit.

"I can say it is too early to speak of a South-North summit meeting. Still, we need to hold such a summit," he said.

"What we need the most is to open the gate to peacefully resolving the North Korean nuclear issue. And I believe we can very well go to Pyongyang should such conditions are met," he added.

The president said the former intelligence official was also the right person to reform the spy agency, which has often been accused of working as the stick for the reigning government in domestic affairs, sometimes meddling in local elections as well.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (L) holds his first press conference following his inauguration on May 10, 2017, to announce his nomination of a new prime minister and other top government and presidential officials. They are South Jeolla Province Gov. Lee Nak-yon (second from L), who has been tapped to become the new prime minister; Suh Hoon, a former official at the National Intelligence Service who has been named to head the spy agency; and Im Jong-seok, a former lawmaker who was appointed as Moon's new and first chief of staff. (Yonhap)

Moon also appointed former student activist and close aide Im Jong-seok as chief of staff. Joo Young-hoon, a former official at the presidential security service, was named to head the organization.

"Throughout my election campaign, I said I will appoint a new prime minister who can spearhead integration, unity and harmony. I believe Gov. Lee is just the right person who can spearhead integration and unity under the new government," the president told a press briefing, the first of its kind since his inauguration just hours earlier.

The presidential office Cheong Wa Dae also said Lee was well prepared to help lead the country.

"He has vast knowledge of and experience in our social, state and global affairs as he has worked 21 years as a journalist, 14 years as a lawmaker and three years as a provincial governor," it said in a press release.

Lee's appointment as prime minister is subject to a parliamentary hearing, though it does not require the approval of the parliament.

His new chief of staff, Im, is a former lawmaker who had worked as his chief secretary in the lead-up to the presidential election held Tuesday.

Im is most famous for his activities as a student activist, which included a high-profile visit by a group of local college students to North Korea to meet the founder and then leader of the reclusive communist state Kim Il-sung.

"While working as a lawmaker, Im served on the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs for six years, developing his expertise there. He is expected to help spearhead a stable role for Cheong Wa Dae in the face of many difficult diplomatic issues surrounding the nation," the presidential office said.

"Also, he is said to be the best person to help realize the president's wish to improve North-South Korean relations as he gained much experience in such affairs when he revised the law on support for (South Korean firms) at the Kaesong joint industrial complex," it added.

Moon said Im's appointment was also aimed at reforming the presidential office and making it more dynamic.

"With Im's appointment, I hope to turn Cheong Wa Dae into a younger, more dynamic entity that does not seek to rule," the president said.

Moon's election in the presidential by-election held Tuesday came after his conservative predecessor, Park Geun-hye, was removed by a Constitutional Court ruling on March 10 that upheld the parliamentary impeachment of her over a series of corruption allegations.

Some of the ousted president's former aides currently stand trial for neglecting their duty to prevent corruption by Park and those surrounding her, though the former leader's unwillingness to communicate even with her secretaries has partly been blamed for their failure.

"I hope the very culture at Cheong Wa Dae will change to one where the president and his key advisors, centered around a young chief of staff, can talk freely," Moon told the press conference.

Im's appointment immediately took effect, Cheong Wa Dae officials said later.


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