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Yoon calls on Nat'l Assembly to approve PM nominee

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President Yoon Suk-yeol signs his first presidential bill at the new presidential office in Yongsan District, Seoul, Tuesday. Yonhap
President Yoon Suk-yeol signs his first presidential bill at the new presidential office in Yongsan District, Seoul, Tuesday. Yonhap

President kicks off first day after inauguration ceremony

By Nam Hyun-woo

President Yoon Suk-yeol began his work as the country's chief executive by signing a motion asking the National Assembly to approve Prime Minister nominee Han Duck-soo, whose appointment has been delayed by the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK).

Including the motion, Yoon had a grueling first day as president, taking over control of the military as the commander-in-chief and meeting overseas guests and leaders who attended his inauguration ceremony, held at the National Assembly earlier in the day.

According to the presidential office, Yoon signed the motion on Han's appointment as the first bill with his signature on it as president.

Following the motion, Yoon appointed seven Cabinet members ― the ministers of the economy, science, national defense, environment, employment, agriculture and oceans ― and presidential secretaries. Afterwards, the new president also appointed vice ministers.

Han's appointment has been a thorny issue for the president, because the DPK, which holds the majority of seats in the National Assembly, is making all-out efforts to prevent him from taking the position. Unlike other ministers, the president needs National Assembly approval to appoint the prime minister.

Despite the DPK's opposition, Yoon said he places his trust in Han, hoping his "bipartisan" background of having been prime minister and Cabinet minister in both conservative and liberal administrations will lead to smooth sailing for the Yoon government while the nation is deeply divided politically.
President Yoon Suk-yeol receives a letter from U.S. President Joe Biden, delivered by U.S. second gentleman Doug Emhoff, during his courtesy visit to the new president at the presidential office in Yongsan District, Seoul, Tuesday. Yonhap
President Yoon Suk-yeol receives a letter from U.S. President Joe Biden, delivered by U.S. second gentleman Doug Emhoff, during his courtesy visit to the new president at the presidential office in Yongsan District, Seoul, Tuesday. Yonhap

Hectic first day

Yoon officially began his five-year term at midnight, Tuesday, by receiving a briefing on North Korea's movements and the South Korean military's readiness from the Joint Chiefs of Staff in an underground bunker at the presidential office site in Yongsan District, Seoul.

After the briefing, Yoon praised the servicemen's efforts to protect the people's lives and property, and stressed the importance of military readiness amid the grave security conditions on the Korean Peninsula, according to the presidential office.

President Yoon Suk-yeol and first lady Kim Kun-hee gesture with children during a visit to a playground near the presidential office in Yongsan District, Seoul, Tuesday. Korea Times photo by Seo Jae-hoon
President Yoon Suk-yeol and first lady Kim Kun-hee gesture with children during a visit to a playground near the presidential office in Yongsan District, Seoul, Tuesday. Korea Times photo by Seo Jae-hoon

After leaving his home in Seocho District, southern Seoul, in the morning, Yoon visited Seoul National Cemetery in Dongjak District and paid respects to national heroes and patriots.

After being sworn in during his inauguration ceremony, Yoon met peoples living in the neighborhood of the new presidential office, thanking them for welcoming his move to Yongsan District, and took photos with them.

After being elected on March 9, Yoon pledged to relocate the presidential office and use the defense ministry headquarters in Seoul as the new presidential office, for better communication with the public.

The new presidential office is still undergoing renovation, and Yoon began his work in a temporary office on the fifth floor of the building. When the renovations are complete, Yoon will move to a room on the second floor of the building as his main office, as well as using the current one too. The offices of senior secretaries will be set up on the second to fourth floors.

After signing Han's motion as the first presidential task, Yoon received overseas guests who attended the inauguration.

Starting with a meeting with U.S. second gentleman Doug Emhoff, Yoon then received courtesy visits from Japan's Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, and Khaldoon Al Mubarak, chairman of the Commission on Administrative Affairs of Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates.

"The Korea-U.S. alliance, which boasts 70 years of history, has been a linchpin of peace and stability in the Northeast Asian region," Yoon said during the meeting with Emhoff. "Based on the alliance, Korea has achieved industrialization and democratization, and I believe the bilateral alliance is the most successful case among alliances that the U.S. is forging with other countries."

Emhoff replied that U.S. President Joe Biden is looking forward to seeing Yoon at their summit slated for May 21, which will be the earliest-ever to take place following a Korean president's inauguration, and handed over Biden's letter, which contains the U.S. leader's intention to cooperate with Yoon during the next five years.

President Yoon Suk-yeol shakes hands with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi who paid a courtesy visit to the presidential office in Yongsan District, Seoul, Tuesday. Yonhap
President Yoon Suk-yeol shakes hands with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi who paid a courtesy visit to the presidential office in Yongsan District, Seoul, Tuesday. Yonhap

The Japanese foreign minister also delivered Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's letter, and Yoon responded by saying he "is looking forward to making efforts with Prime Minister Kishida to improve Seoul-Tokyo relations," and asked Hayashi to play his role.

On Tuesday evening, Yoon received a courtesy visit from China's Vice President Wang Qishan and held a meeting with Singaporean President Halimah Yacob.

After receiving the guests, Yoon had dinner with the overseas dignitaries, as well as domestic business tycoons including Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Euisun, LG Group Chairman Koo Kwang-mo and Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin.

Nam Hyun-woo namhw@koreatimes.co.kr


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