President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday nominated a former journalist with no political background as the new prime minister, a surprising choice that underscores her oft-criticised secretive appointment style and heralds a rough road ahead in the parliamentary approval procedure.
Moon Chang-keuk, 66, is the first journalist to be tapped for prime minister in the country's modern history. The president also named Lee Byung-kee, ambassador to Japan, as the new head of the National Intelligence Service.
Park's choice of the former reporter for the new prime minister is likely to confront stumbling blocks largely because he appears to lack experience in the political arena and in public office. The new prime minister is expected to play a crucial role in Park's efforts to spearhead drastic reforms and regain public confidence in the wake of the ferry disaster.
The prime minister and NIS chief nominees need parliamentary approval to take their posts. Skeptics cast doubt on the former reporter whether he could carry out the role of the new P.M. to be given with more power, more responsibility.
So far, the prime minister in Korea has held a largely ceremonial role as power is concentrated heavily on the president. Park vowed to give more authority to the new prime minister to push ahead with her reform drive and government reorganisation plan proposed in the face of the Sewol tragedy. Park plans to launch new ministries to improve the country's safety standards and work efficiency and root out deeply entrenched corruptive practices in the public offices.
Born in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province, Moon built his career as a political correspondent at the Joongang Ilbo, a major national newspaper since 1975. He served as the political desk editor and was promoted to chief of the editorial staff. After his retirement, Moon, was named chief professor of media studies at Korea University and a director at the Kwanhun Club, a local organisation of veteran journalists.
Moon said he feels grave responsibility over his nomination but vowed to dedicate himself to lead reform efforts aimed at enhancing the country's safety standards.
"I will devote my remaining life to rebuild the foundation of the Republic of Korea to make the country a safer and happier place to live," he said at a news conference held later in the afternoon.
Presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook hailed Moon as "a man of integrity" and "firm belief" who made efforts in "eradicating wrongdoings and accumulated evil in our society" throughout his life.
"We believe that Moon is the right person to push ahead with state agendas, including the reform of public offices and the normalization of abnormal practices, through his outstanding insight and drive," Min told reporters.