UPDATE 1-Second nominee for South Korea prime minister withdraws

Mon Jun 23, 2014 9:45pm EDT

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SEOUL, June 24 (Reuters) - The second nominee for South Korea's prime minister withdrew his name on Tuesday over controversial comments he made about the country's troubled past with Japan in the latest political setback for President Park Geun-hye.

The decision by Moon Chang-keuk, a former journalist, to pull out follows the withdrawal of a former Supreme Court justice last month over questions about the ethics of earning a large income after leaving public service.

"I wanted to help President Park Geun-hye. I have decided that I would be helping President Park by withdrawing at this time," Moon told a news conference.

Moon, a devout Christian, had come under criticism after comments he made at a church gathering that it had been God's will for Korea to suffer under Japan's colonial rule in the early 20th century.

Park had nominated Moon as part of a cabinet reshuffle in the aftermath of a ferry disaster in April that killed more than 300 people. Her government has been sharply criticised for its slow and ineffective handling of the disaster.

Park, who has suffered a sharp drop in public support since the tragedy, vowed last month to overhaul government bureaucracy and improve safety oversight.

She faces further questions about her ability to govern Asia's fourth largest economy after a conscript soldier based at a unit near the country's tensely guarded border with North Korea shot and killed five comrades.

He was captured on Monday after a standoff with troops. (Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Choonsik Yoo and Jeremy Laurence)

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