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(2nd LD) PM nominee says stabilizing economy for ordinary people top priority

All News 18:00 May 02, 2022

(ATTN: ADDS remarks on Japan in paras 6-7)
By Joo Kyung-don

SEOUL, May 2 (Yonhap) -- Prime Minister nominee Han Duck-soo said Monday that stabilizing the economy for ordinary people's livelihoods will be his top priority and he will use every policy measure possible to achieve that goal once he gets the country's No. 2 job.

Han, who has been nominated by President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol as the first prime minster of the incoming government, made the remark during his confirmation hearing, adding that he will preempt factors that make prices unstable in advance and improve market structure.

"I will also change the regulatory framework," Han said in his opening speech. "I will get rid of chunks of regulations that burden business activities, and support innovation in new industry development to secure new growth engines."

Han, who already served as the country's prime minister during the Roh Moo-hyun administration from 2007 to 2008, also vowed to overcome the COVID-19 crisis for the country's return to pre-pandemic life.

"Although the current government has worked hard to protect the people's lives and safety, I believe the COVID-19 crisis is not over," he said.

When asked by a lawmaker about his attendance at a birthday party in Seoul for then Japanese Emperor Akihito in 2013, Han replied that historical issues between the two nations should not hinder economic and future-oriented relations.

Han said relations with Japan are "difficult, but this past history should not hamper our economy or future." Han said he attended the birthday party as a head of a trade organization.

Han's confirmation hearing was rescheduled for this week after last week's hearing fell apart due to boycotts by the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and the Justice Party. Lawmakers from the two parties did not take part in two days of sessions, citing Han's failure to submit requested data on real-estate transactions, tax payment and other issues.

In the hearing, Han, who boasts more than 40 years of experience in public service, was grilled about alleged conflicts of interest related to his home rental in the 1990s and also the hefty salary he received as an adviser to law firm Kim & Chang.

DP lawmakers raised suspicions of conflict of interest over Han's house being rented to local affiliates of two U.S. companies pursuing business interests in the South Korean market in the 1990s when he was serving in high-ranking government positions in the trade sector.

Han denied any wrongdoing related to his home rental.

"I have never given special favors to those firms and met with company officials," he said. "If I had given special favors only because they rented my home, I would have been already fired or gone to jail."

On criticism over his revolving door move and the hefty salary he received from Kim & Chang, Han said he feels sorry from the public's viewpoint but refuted conflict of interest claims.

"I have never called or made requests to my junior colleagues for a case," he said. "The reason why I went to Kim & Chang is that attracting foreign investments and explaining our economy were not different from my public diplomacy work."

In South Korea, the prime minister is the only Cabinet post that requires parliamentary approval.

Han Duck-soo, the first prime minister nominee of President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol's incoming government, takes an oath during his confirmation hearing at the National Assembly in Seoul on May 2, 2022. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)


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