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Yoon picks Supreme Court chief, industry minister nominee

By Shin Ji-hye

Published : Aug. 22, 2023 - 15:17

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President Yoon Suk Yeol nominates Bang Moon-kyu, minister for government policy coordination, to the post of industry minister on Tuesday. (Yonhap) President Yoon Suk Yeol nominates Bang Moon-kyu, minister for government policy coordination, to the post of industry minister on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol nominated Seoul High Court Senior Judge Lee Gyun-yong as the new chief justice of the Supreme Court, and Bang Moon-kyu, a minister in the Office for Government Policy Coordination, as industry minister, in a reshuffling Tuesday.

Vice Finance Minister Bang Ki-sun replaces the policy coordination minister while Kim Byoung-hwan, the presidential secretary for economy and finance, was named to fill Bang’s vacancy.

In addition, Yoon nominated Sejong Metropolitan City Mayor Ko Ki-dong as Vice Inteior Minister. Yi Han-kyung, the head of the Disaster Management Office of the Interior Ministry, was promoted to lead the Disaster and Safety Management Headquarters of the ministry.

Yoon dismissed Lee Sang-rae, head of the National Agency for Administrative City Construction, holding him responsible for the Osong tunnel disaster in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province. Kim Hyeong-ryeol, chairman of the construction industry association CI Guarantee, was appointed as the new head of the office.

During a press briefing, presidential chief of staff Kim Dae-ki described new Chief Justice nominee Lee as an "orthodox judge" focused solely on trials and research for 32 years, including two stints as a Supreme Court trial researcher.

"Lee proved his administrative ability after serving as the head of a major court agency," Kim said. "Through his experience in the courtroom, I believe he is the right person to listen to various voices in society and lead the judiciary based on principles, justice and common sense."

After graduating from Seoul National University's law department, Lee passed the bar exam in 1984. Starting his career as a judge at the Seoul Central District Court in 1990, he served as a senior judge at courts in Seoul and Daejeon.

Lee is considered a conservative judge and has also served as a member of the Civil Case Study Group, a symbol of elite judges. He is thought to be close to President Yoon, who was one year his senior in law school, and was one of three recommendations to be the first Supreme Court justice candidate under the current administration last year.

Lee will succeed current Chief Justice Kim Myeong-soo, who will end his six-year term on Sept. 24.

The presidential office sees that the balance of the court has tilted to the left as judges from the Our Law Research Association and International Human Rights Law Research Association, considered groups of liberal judges, were selected under Chief Justice Kim. Kim was appointed by the previous liberal Moon Jae-in administration.

The nominee for chief justice of the Supreme Court will be appointed by the president after a parliamentary confirmation hearing and a vote on the appointment motion of the plenary session.

On the same day, Yoon also nominated Bang Moon-kyu, minister for government policy coordination, to the post of industry minister, which had been rumored for replacement.

After graduating from Seoul National University, Bang passed the public administration examination in 1984 and began his public career. He served as a spokesperson, social budget deliberation officer, budget general deliberation officer, budget chief and second vice minister at the Finance Ministry.

Regarding the selection of the new nominee, chief of staff Kim said, "As an orthodox economic official, he has a broad understanding of state affairs. We decided he was the right person to carry out government tasks in the field of industrial and trade resources, such as promoting exports."

Bang told reporters, "As the world economy is changing rapidly, uncertainties in the investment environment, trade and energy and resource policies of our economy are increasing."

He promised to do his utmost to ensure that the Industry Ministry can lead the global market.

Industry Minister Lee Chang-yang reportedly was criticized by Yoon for failing to dismantle the Moon administration's nuclear power phase-out policy, to revitalize nuclear power plants and to restructure the Korea Electric Power Corp.

In May, Yoon appointed his secretary for industrial policy, Kang Kyung-sung, as the second vice minister for the Industry Ministry, sending a de facto warning message to the ministry. In the same month, Yoon told his Cabinet to "take bold personnel measures" if officials take ambiguous positions without adapting to the new state of affairs and are still mired in denuclearization and ideological environmental policies of the former Moon Jae-in administration.