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South Korean lawmakers approve President Park's choice for prime minister

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea's ruling party-controlled legislation on Thursday approved President Park Geun-hye's choice for prime minster, ending a lengthy merry-go-round at the country's No. 2 job caused by political wrangling and corruption scandals.

The National Assembly on Thursday approved the appointment of Hwang Kyo-ahn by a vote of 156-120. Two lawmakers abstained, parliamentary officials said.

Hwang has been the country's justice minister and will be remembered for successfully petitioning the country's constitutional court last year to disband a small leftist party accused of pro-North Korea views, a decision critics said exposed the limits of freedom of expression in a nation once ruled by military dictators.

Hwang will succeed Lee Wan Koo, who resigned in April amid allegations that he was among several members of Park's administration who received bribes from a businessman who committed suicide weeks earlier.

Lee in February had replaced Chung Hong-won who stepped down over the government's criticized handling of a ferry disaster that killed more than 300 people last year. Chung offered to resign shortly after the ferry sank in April last year to take responsibility over the disaster, but two possible replacements abandoned their nominations because of questions over past behavior, forcing Park to retain him.

South Korea's executive power is concentrated in the president, but the prime minister leads the country if the president becomes incapacitated.

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