South Korea's parliament approved on Friday the newly inaugurated president's nominee for prime minister, clearing him of a political hurdle less than one week in office and after three of his cabinet picks quit in disgrace.
But he had been unable to form a cabinet or put his choice for prime minister in office because liberal opponents who control parliament have blocked many of his nominees, saying they were ethically unfit for their jobs.
Parliament voted to approve Han Seung-soo as prime minister, which analysts said may be a signal that unpopular liberals would seek limited compromise with the popular Lee in order to build support ahead of a parliamentary election in April.
Liberal MPs said they suspected Han, a veteran bureaucrat and former finance minister, of having improper real estate dealings.
Lee's nominees for unification, environment and gender equality ministers have withdrawn their names after allegations they had evaded taxes or speculated in real estate – a politically charged issue in South Korea.
Lee admitted he was partly to blame for the problems.
"The beginning hasn't been smooth. We share a sense of fault in that," Lee said in a meeting with his aides on Friday. "We've not been able to get to regular work for days."
Analysts said two weeks of questions about his nominees left Lee politically damaged, especially because he had been twice investigated for securities fraud before taking office. He was cleared both times. (Reuters)
South Korea President gets PM approved