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South Korea's Yoon nominates conservative lawmaker as finance chief

Choo Kyung-ho named as deputy prime minister and finance minister

South Korea's president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol speaks during a news conference to address his relocation plans of the presidential office at his transition team office in Seoul on March 20.   © Reuters

SEOUL (Reuters) -- South Korea's incoming President Yoon Suk-yeol on Sunday named Choo Kyung-ho as deputy prime minister and finance minister, as the country seeks to tackle surging inflation, household debt and demand for welfare.

Yoon, who takes office in May 10, announced eight cabinet minister nominations, including defense, industry, health and land. All are subject to parliamentary confirmation hearings.

As deputy prime minister, Choo, 62, would double as finance minister and oversee economic policy and replace incumbent Hong Nam-ki.

Choo is a second term lawmaker in Yoon's conservative People Power Party, but has served 33 years in government roles including as vice minister of economy and finance, and vice chairman of Financial Services Commission.

His nomination came as Asia's fourth-largest economy faces challenges of quelling decade-high inflation without destabilizing the markets amid continued recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Standing together, Yoon said Choo would facilitate policy coordination among agencies and with the parliament.

"The current economic situation are extremely serious, and internal and external circumstances are tough," Choo told a news conference, citing inflation and slowing growth.

"The new government's top priority is to stabilize prices and people's livelihoods."

South Korean economy last year grew at the fastest pace in 11 years but is expected to slow in 2022 and consumer inflation is hovering at a decade high amid global supply shocks and Russia's invasion into Ukraine.

Choo, as a member of the presidential transition committee, has been working to draw up an extra budget plan to support small businesses and the self-employed who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yoon also nominated Lee Jong-sup, a retired military commander who formerly served as deputy chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as his first defense minister.

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