South Korean President Lee Myung-bak yesterday replaced his finance minister and North Korea policymaker, signaling a new drive to combat the economic crisis and an apparent refusal to yield to the North’s threats.
Kang Man-soo, who came in for severe media criticism for his handling of the economic downturn, will be replaced by Yoon Jeung-hyun, the president’s spokesman said.
Yoon is a former chief of the decision-making Financial Supervisory Committee and of the watchdog Financial Supervisory Service.
“The government expects his nomination and appointment will bring about confidence in the market that will help us get through this economic crisis,” the spokesman said.
South Korean Unification Minister Kim Ha-joong will be succeeded by Hyun In-taek, an academic who helped draft Lee’s policy towards Pyongyang, which links major economic aid to progress on denuclearization.
The policy has enraged the communist North, which has cut off dialogue and imposed tight border controls. The South’s armed forces are on top alert after the North’s military on Saturday threatened “all-out confrontation” with Seoul.
Lee’s office in a statement called Hyun “a reunification and security expert” well versed in North Korean affairs and national defense.
Analysts said Hyun’s appointment indicates the conservative president will maintain his firm policy towards Pyongyang, which contrasts with a decade-long “sunshine” engagement policy under Lee’s liberal predecessors.
“Hyun is a key architect of President Lee’s North Korea policy, which is denounced by Pyongyang as being confrontational,” said Park Kie-duck, a senior member of the Sejong Institute think-tank.
“Hyun’s appointment sends a signal that President Lee will hold on to his current principled policy towards North Korea consistently. There will be no quick attempts to engage the North,” Park said.
Lee, styling himself the “economy first” president, won power with a record victory margin. But after almost 11 months in office, his approval rating has slumped as the export-driven economy teeters closer to recession.
Kang was under fire for public utterances which critics said weakened market confidence and for alleged inconsistency. Initially, he encouraged a weaker won to promote exports, until the currency nosedived against the dollar and authorities were forced to try to prop it up.
The central bank’s official growth forecast for this year is 2 percent. The state-run Korea Development Institute sees a high possibility of the first recession in over a decade, as domestic demand and exports fall sharply.
Park said the president had long ignored demands to replace Kang, one of his closest confidants.
“But he could no longer stick it out politically,” Park said.
The president also replaced two ministerial-level officials — the chief of staff for the prime minister and the head of the newly created regulatory body, the Financial Services Commission (FSC).
Kwon Tae-shin, a career government administrator, will become the prime minister’s chief of staff. Chin Dong-soo, president of the state-run Export-Import Bank of Korea, is to be the new head of the FSC.
Malaysian authorities have advised women to wear makeup, not to nag their husbands and speak with a cartoon character’s soothing voice during the virus lockdown, sparking a flood of mockery online. Like many countries, Malaysia has ordered all citizens to stay at home to stem the spread of COVID-19, which, as of yesterday, had killed at least 39,070 people globally. In a series of online posters with the hashtag #WomenPreventCOVID19, the Malaysian Ministry of Women and Family Development issued advice on how to avoid domestic conflicts during the partial lockdown, which began on March 18. One of the campaign posters depicted
KEEP AWAY: People should wear a mask in places where they cannot follow social distancing rules, the CECC said, adding that it would publish detailed guidelines today The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday announced 16 new cases of COVID-19, including two domestic cases, as it urged people to practice social distancing in public spaces by keeping a distance of at least 1m when outdoors and 1.5m indoors. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that seven of the new cases tested positive upon their arrival at the airport, four were under home quarantine, one was under home isolation and two were under self-health management, while the two domestic cases sought treatment on their own. The domestic cases are a man in his
Taiwan will negotiate with the WHO about its participation without Beijing’s help and intervention as more countries, including Australia and Japan, are partnering with Taiwan to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a telephonic roundtable with reporters on Monday also supported Taiwan’s role in the WHO, saying the US Department of State would do its best to assist Taiwan’s “appropriate role” in the world’s highest health policy setting body, Voice of America reported. In a Japan Business Press report published on Sunday, Chinese Ambassador to Japan Kong Xuanyou (孔鉉佑) said
Japan’s ruling party yesterday proposed the nation’s biggest-ever stimulus package of ￥60 trillion (US$554 billion) as the COVID-19 pandemic locks the economy in a recession. The sum includes ￥20 trillion in fiscal measures with private initiatives and other elements likely making up the rest, the proposal by the Liberal Democratic Party showed. More than ￥10 trillion, or the equivalent of a 5 percentage point cut in the sales tax rate, would be handed out to the public in a combination of cash, subsidies and coupons, the plan showed. The proposal puts an initial figure on a stimulus package that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo