May 21, 2017 2:13 pm JST

South Korea's Moon names top ministers and security adviser

UN senior adviser appointed as foreign minister

United Nations senior adviser on policy Kang Kyung-wha was tapped as the next foreign minister. © AP

SEOUL (Reuters) -- South Korea President Moon Jae-in named the finance minister, foreign minister, and top security advisor for his new government on Sunday, as it faces challenges nurturing economic recovery, soothing ties with China and dealing with North Korea.

Moon told a media briefing that he had nominated former vice finance minister Kim Dong-yeon as deputy prime minister and finance minister, while a United Nations senior adviser on policy Kang Kyung-wha was tapped as the next foreign minister.

Elected earlier this month after a graft scandal brought down his predecessor, Moon stressed the need to improve conditions for ordinary people, with his government needing to put more life into a sluggish economic recovery.

"Our new government has begun work amid unprecedented low growth, economic polarisation and economic hardships for the working class," Moon said.

Kim, the president's pick for the finance portfolio, is known for his attention to detail and humble personal background. Two finance ministry officials told Reuters his appointment would be well received in the ministry.

The new administration also faces diplomatic challenges, soothing ties with China, the biggest buyer of South Korean goods, after they became strained by the deployment of U.S. THAAD anti-missile system, as well as increased tensions over North Korea's missile and nuclear threats.

Kang, the woman chosen to be foreign minister, has an extensive career in the ministry and at the United Nations, said the president. Moon said her appointment gave "great meaning" to gender equality among his cabinet.

His nominees for ministerial posts have to attend a parliamentary hearing before they can officially take up their posts.

Chung Eui-yong, a top foreign policy adviser during the presidential election campaign, was named as the president's national security adviser.

Chung met with U.S. President Donald Trump's security advisers last week to discuss an upcoming summit and North Korea's nuclear issues.

Chung told Reuters earlier that although the alliance of U.S. and South Korea is crucial, the process to deploy U.S. anti-missile system THAAD should be reviewed under Moon's government.

THAAD has been deployed in South Korea since April and its presence has spurred diplomatic rifts with China and the United States.

"I believe one of the most important aspects the country's security adviser should have is a firm mind on security and diplomatic abilities when we face diplomatic and economic issues tied together, including North Korea's nuclear programme, THAAD and free trade agreements," said Moon. "Chung is the right man."

The South Korean president also named Moon Chung-in, a leading advocate of engagement policies on North Korea, as a special aide on diplomacy and security.

Moon, a professor at Yonsei University in Seoul, accompanied former presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun on their summits with North Korea's then-leader Kim Jong Il in 2000 and 2007.

The president has said if conditions are ripe he can meet North Korea's current leader Kim Jong Un.

Moon's special envoy to Washington Hong Seok-hyun, a former ambassador to the United States, was also named as a special presidential aide on diplomacy and security.

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