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(LEAD) 'Mermaid of Asia' named second vice culture-sports minister

Politics 17:24 December 19, 2019

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details and remarks in paras 6-8)

SEOUL, Dec. 19 (Yonhap) -- Choi Yoon-hee, a former South Korean female swimming star, was appointed as new second vice minister of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in a reshuffle of four vice minister-level officials conducted by President Moon Jae-in on Thursday.

The president named 52-year-old Choi to succeed Roh Tae-kang as the No. 2 official at the culture and sports ministry, the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said.

Choi, who gained fame in the 1980s after winning five Asian Games gold medals in swimming, has served as CEO of KSPO&CO, a public entity in charge of managing 1988 Seoul Olympics facilities.

This photo provided by Cheong Wa Dae shows Choi Yoon-hee, new second vice minister of culture, sports and tourism. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

This photo provided by Cheong Wa Dae shows Choi Yoon-hee, new second vice minister of culture, sports and tourism. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The unprecedented Asiad accomplishment earned Choi the nickname "mermaid of Asia." She won the women's 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke and the 200-meter individual medley at the New Delhi Asiad in 1982 and again secured two golds from 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke at the Seoul Asian Games in 1986.

"Choi is a former national swimming athlete who gained a lot of affection from the people. She has expanded her field experience and administrative abilities while serving as head of KSPO&CO and the Korea Woman's Sports Association. She is expected to resolve pending issues in the sports and tourism fields," Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Ko Min-jung said.

Choi became the second elite athlete to serve as vice culture-sports minister after sport shooter Park Jong-kil who served in the post in 2013.

Choi retired from swimming in 1986 and married singer Yoo Hyun-sang in 1991. She drew public attention two years ago after declaring her support for Moon in the run-up to the 2017 presidential election.

"I feel a heavy responsibility for being appointed to the important post of second vice culture-sports minister. As a member of the sporting world, I will carefully listen to the voices from the fields and do my best to reflect them in government policies," Choi said in a message released by the ministry.

Moon also replaced two vice ministers at the Ministry of Science and ICT.

Jeong Byung-seon, chief of the National Science Museum, was appointed as the first vice minister of the ministry, while Jang Seok-young, the ministry's IT policy chief, was promoted to second vice minister.

Cho Dae-yop, a labor professor at Korea University, was named as chief of the Presidential Commission on Policy Planning. Cho was previously nominated as the first labor minister of the Moon administration two years ago but resigned voluntarily before appointment.


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