South Korea inaugurates new prime minister

South Korean lawmakers approve Hwang Kyo-ahn as new PM after incumbent stepped down following allegations of bribe

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Updated Jul 28, 2015

South Korea has picked Hwang Kyo-ahn, President Geun-hye Park’s choice as new prime minister, the president's seventh nominee for the position in two years.

The appointment of Hwang Kyo-ahn was approved by a parliament vote of 156-120. Two lawmakers abstained.

Hwang has been South Korea's justice minister since 2013 and his first priority as the prime minister will be to tackle the MERS outbreak that has claimed 23 lives.

The post has been vacant since Lee Wan-koo resigned last April after two months in the office amid allegations that he received bribes from a businessman who killed himself weeks earlier.

Lee's incumbent Chung Hong-won stepped down in February after the Sewol ferry disaster in which more than 300 people died.

The prime minister is largely symbolic in South Korea, where power is concentrated in the presidency. But nominees face intense questioning from opposition MP's. Three earlier nominees had to drop out after a rough ride in the parliament.

Opposition lawmakers were also opposed Hwang for claims of dodging mandatory military service, but the ongoing MERS crisis in the country forced them to compromise.

The outbreak killed 23 people in the country so far, infecting 165 others and criticism for the government's response has increased.

The prime minister will  takes charge of the government efforts against the MERS virus. He is also promised to clean up corruption after recent bribery scandals as the ruling party hopes to get majority in next year's general election.

TRTWorld and agencies