From Vietnamese orphanage to German economy minister

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Germany's incoming economy minister Philipp Roesler is a qualified heart surgeon who was born in war-torn south Vietnam and moved to Europe after being adopted as an infant from an orphanage.

The 38-year-old, the youngest member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet, shot to fame when he first joined the top ranks of government as federal health minister in 2009.

Now he is line to become the official number two to Merkel as her government's vice-chancellor, as long as his Free Democrats Party (FDP) confirms him as its leader, as is expected, at a conference on Friday.

The FDP, the junior partner in the ruling coalition, chose Roesler on Tuesday to replace Rainer Ruederle as economy minister. Ruederle is to become his party's leader in parliament.

The position of vice-chancellor is currently held by outgoing FDP leader Guido Westerwelle, who will nevertheless remain in cabinet as foreign minister.

A heart and chest surgeon by training, Roesler was adopted as a nine-month-old baby by a German couple from a Vietnamese orphanage. His exact date of birth is unknown, though officially listed as February 24.

He was brought up by his adoptive father, a career military officer, after the couple split when he was just four.

A Westerwelle protégé, Roesler last year steered a disputed set of health reforms through the German parliament that increased the financial burden on patients in an attempt to address healthcare deficits.

Roesler joined the FDP in 1992 and was elected to the Lower Saxony regional parliament in 2003.

Appointed regional minister for the economy in early 2009, Merkel brought him into the federal government after winning a second term in September that year.

Once asked by Stern magazine if he was bullied at school because of his Asian appearance, Roesler replied tongue-in-cheek that bullies steered well clear "because people always think all Asians are karate experts."

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