Park Names Doctor as Health Minister After MERS Rocked Economy

South Korean President Park Geun Hye picked a hospital doctor to replace her health minister after the recent outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome undercut consumer confidence and economic growth.

Park named Chung Chin Youb of Seoul National University College of Medicine to replace Moon Hyung Pyo, her spokesman Min Kyung Wook said at a briefing Tuesday. Chung has built a hospital information network and possesses a deep understanding of public health-care systems, Min said.

The government came under criticism for its reliance on private hospitals while fighting MERS, which infected 186 people and killed 36 in South Korea after the first reported case on May 20. Park’s decision comes a week after Prime Minister Hwang Kyo Ahn said MERS is no longer a public concern. No new cases of MERS have been confirmed since July 5.

Economic growth slowed to 0.3 percent in the second quarter as the epidemic damped consumer spending, the Bank of Korea said in July. The central bank cut its key interest rate to an unprecedented 1.5 percent in June to shore up the economy.

Chung is subject to a parliamentary confirmation hearing.

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