(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with remarks by Yoon, Han; CHANGES photo)
By Lee Haye-ah
SEOUL, April 3 (Yonhap) -- President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol on Sunday nominated former Prime Minister Han Duck-soo as the first prime minister of his incoming government.
Han is the first person to be named to the Cabinet of the Yoon administration, which will launch on May 10.
Yoon said in explaining his choice that the new government will have to establish a foundation for the economy to "leap again" in the face of a grave internal and external environment and thoroughly prepare for an era that merges the economy with security.
"I believe nominee Han Duck-soo is the right person to oversee and coordinate the Cabinet and carry out state affairs based on his abundant experience in both the private sector and government," Yoon said during a press conference flanked by Han.
"He is someone who has been recognized for his abilities and expertise, irrespective of politics, and served extensively in core positions in government," Yoon said.
Han took the podium next, saying it was an honor to be named to the No. 2 political office at a time when the internal and external economic and geopolitical circumstances are very grave.
"On the one hand it is an honor, but I also feel a very heavy and large sense of responsibility," he said.
Han vowed to serve the president-elect while creating policies that will be realizable through intense debate and communication.
"I believe as a methodology, joint governance and unity will become very important elements of policy," he said.
Han outlined four areas he plans to focus on: foreign policy in the national interest and a self-sufficient national defense; fiscal health; maintaining a surplus in the international balance of payments; and keeping the level of national productivity high.
"In foreign policy and national defense, the country must always dedicate its full effort for a foreign policy that enhances the national interest and strengthen deterrence for strong national defense and self-sufficiency," he said.
On fiscal health, he said the current expansionary policy used to support the response to the COVID-19 pandemic is inevitable in the short run but warned against its continued use, saying the government should consider fiscal health with a sense of emergency over the longer term.
Han underscored the importance of maintaining a surplus in the international balance of payments, saying close attention needs to be paid to averting a currency crisis amid rising energy prices caused by recent geopolitical events.
In order to keep productivity high, he called for cultivating an excellent workforce through education and supplying quality capital through financial reform.
Han, 72, has held a number of high positions in government, including finance minister, prime minister under former President Roh Moo-hyun and ambassador to the United States. In those capacities, he played a key role in negotiating a free trade agreement with the U.S.
Han's nomination was rumored for days, as his expertise in both trade and foreign affairs made him a suitable candidate to oversee Yoon's twin priorities of rebuilding the economy and bolstering national security.
Nominating Han was thought to have other benefits too.
He was born in Jeonju, a liberal stronghold, and served under two liberal presidents, Kim Dae-jung and Roh, which could reduce the chances of his nomination being opposed by the liberal Democratic Party.
Han also passed the National Assembly's vetting during the confirmation process for his nomination as prime minister in 2007.
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