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Politics

Meet South Korea's new leader, Hwang Kyo-ahn

Conservative prosecutor has history of friction with opposition

Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn has become South Korea's acting president.   © Yonhap/Kyodo

SEOUL -- South Korean Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn has become acting president following Park Geun-hye's impeachment, though his history as a conservative prosecutor suggests challenges in working with the opposition for political stability.

The 59-year-old Hwang spent 30 years as a state prosecutor before joining Park's cabinet in 2013. He specialized in enforcing public safety and national security laws, gaining particular expertise in legislation targeting groups linked to North Korea. This work has drawn frequent criticism from the country's political opposition.

Hwang served as justice minister until 2015, and he was instrumental in the Constitutional Court's decision in December 2014 to force the left-wing Unified Progressive Party to disband. This helped Hwang win Park's trust, leading to his approval as the new prime minister in June 2015 after Lee Wan-koo resigned amid bribery allegations.

When allegations emerged this year that Park had involved her close friend Choi Soon-sil in state affairs, the president tried to calm the situation by nominating Kim Byong-jun, a key player in former President Roh Moo-hyun's administration, to replace Hwang. But opposition lawmakers blocked confirmation hearings for Kim, keeping Hwang in office.

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