Choi Kyu Huh, the new caretaker leader of South Korea, was described of South Korea, was described by an acquaintance as a "blind, obedient follower" of the last president, Park Chung Hee.
Choi, 60, was appointed by Park to the largely ceremonial post of prime minister in 1975. According to Article 48 of the Korean constitution, Choi now takes over as interim president for a maximum of three months while the electoral college chooses a new president.
Wielding little real power as prime minister, Choi was described as "simply a 'yes' man" to the late President Park by Jai Hyon Lee, former cultural and information attache at the Korean Embassy in Washington. Lee, an opponent of the Park regime, south and received asylum in the United States and now teaches journalism at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Ill.
Choi is "a total supporter of President Park in all regards, in every respect. He was a blind, obedient follower, not the kind of man to talk back to Park. He would be the last man to stage a coup," said Lee.
Under Park's leadership, Choi kept a low profile as prime minister. But he reportedly took a dovish stand on last week's antigovernment riots in the southern coastal cities of Pusan and Masan.
Choi was born on July 19, 1919 to a middle-class family in Wonju, a town just over 100,000 east of Seoul. He attended high school in Seoul, and college in Japan and Manchuria.
He taught English in Seoul for two years before getting a job in 1947 in the central food administation of the South Korean government under U.S. military occupation.
Choi began his diplomatic career in 1951 as chief of the Economic Affairs Bureau at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He then occupied a succession of diplomatic posts, including minister to Japan in 1959, deputy minister of foreign affairs in 1959-60, ambassador to Malaysia in 1964-67 and minister of foreign affairs in 1967-71.
Choi was appointed special presidential adviser on foreign affairs in 1971, a post he held until his appointment as prime minister.
As special adviser on foreign affairs, Choi visited the North Korean capital of Pyongyang in 1972 as a member of the South Korean delegation negotiating the unification of the Korean peninula.