Prime minister nominee faces controversy ahead of hearing

Former Prime Minister Han Duck-soo denied allegations that he is unfit to serve again in the prime minister post for the Yoon Suk-yeol administration due to his alleged involvement in a problematic legal case.

Spec Watch Korea claimed after Han was nominated for the post that he should not be appointed as the prime minister for receiving 150 million won ($124,000) while working as an adviser for local law firm Kim & Chang from November 2002 to July 2003.

He is accused of helping the firm represent US private equity firm Lone Star, which faced criticism of taking advantage of South Korea’s economic difficulties during the Asian financial crisis in the 1990s by acquiring the Korea Exchange Bank in 2003 and selling it off for huge profit in 2012.

Han has said he was never involved in the Lone Star case while advising for the law firm.

“I will explain if there is a question about it during the confirmation hearing,” Han told reporters Monday. “Regarding the Lone Star issue, even though there was a part that I was involved in as a government policy executor, I was never involved during my time at Kim & Chang.”

Han has been rated as a solid pick for prime minister post due to his background in serving for both left- and right-leaning administrations. He is considered a strong figure to contribute to Yoon’s initiative to form a coalition government, not to mention his extensive career in trade and diplomacy.

He also worked as an outside adviser for S-Oil from March 2021 and earned 80 million won, a record that also could serve as a hurdle for Han to return to the public sector.

Such a record has often been problematic for nominees in key government posts in the past, including former Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn when he was nominated for the prime minister post in the Park Geun-hye administration.

By Ko Jun-tae (ko.juntae@heraldcorp.com)

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