South Korea's Park replaces finance minister in cabinet reshuffle

SEOUL Thu Jun 12, 2014 11:36pm EDT

South Korean President Park Geun-hye delivers a speech during a ceremony marking Korean Memorial Day at the National Cemetery in Seoul June 6, 2014.  REUTERS/Jung Yeon-je/Pool

South Korean President Park Geun-hye delivers a speech during a ceremony marking Korean Memorial Day at the National Cemetery in Seoul June 6, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Jung Yeon-je/Pool

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SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean President Park Geun-hye replaced her finance minister with a three-term member of parliament and close policy confidant in a cabinet reshuffle on Friday in the aftermath of a ferry disaster that killed more than 300 people.

Choi Kyung-hwan, 59, has previously served as industry and energy minister and ruling party parliamentary floor leader and is seen as having extensive experience in both national politics and the bureaucracy.

Choi, who will serve as deputy prime minister, is expected to spearhead Park's plan to bring innovation to boost Asia's fourth-largest economy by focusing on stimulating domestic demand and creating jobs.

Choi inherits a tough role of driving Park's three-year economic revival plan to shifting the focus of economic policy away from backing big exporting industries to strengthening domestic business.

"I will try hard to help revive the livelihoods of economic players," Choi told reporters after the nomination, but declined to discuss details such as his view of foreign exchange and interest rate policies.

"I think it's important (for me) to produce achievements in the government's efforts to further reform," he said.

Park named new ministers to six other cabinet posts including science, education and safety and government administration.

Park's government had come under sharp criticism for its handling of the April 16 ferry disaster in which more than 300 passengers, many of them schoolchildren, drowned.

She vowed to reform government bureaucracy and improve safety oversight.

The cabinet reshuffle comes after the nomination of a new prime minister earlier in the week to replace an incumbent who resigned taking responsibility for the handling of the ferry disaster.

All nominee cabinet members have appear at parliamentary hearings, although the assembly cannot block appointments except for the nominee prime minister.

(Reporting by Jack Kim; Additional reporting by Christine Kim; Editing by Choonsik Yoo)

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