Chung confirmed as Lee’s prime minister
Approval comes despite nominee’s skepticism over Sejong City project
|Chung Un-chan has a news conference yesterday afternoon after the National Assembly approved his appointment. [NEWSIS]|
Overcoming harsh protests from opposition lawmakers, Chung Un-chan was confirmed by the National Assembly yesterday as the second prime minister under President Lee Myung-bak.
In a show of displeasure, opposition lawmakers walked out of the voting. Of the 290 total Assembly members, 177 did cast ballots. Chung won with 164 votes in favor and nine against. Three voters abstained and one was declared invalid. Chung needed 146 votes to win confirmation. He had the overwhelming support of the majority Grand National Party.
At one point, 15 opposition lawmakers faced the voters and protested against Chung’s confirmation. Some temporarily surrounded the ballot box to try to stop the vote.
The vote followed parliamentary confirmation hearings last week. Chung was designated by President Lee on Sept. 3. Opposition lawmakers took issue with his negative stance on the long-pending Sejong City project, the proposed administrative capital relocation plan of former President Roh Moo-hyun. He also faced tax evasion and military service exemption issues. The minor opposition Liberty Forward party has a stronghold in the Chungcheong region, where Sejong City is being built. Support from Chungcheong voters swayed the result of a very close presidential race in favor of the late Roh in 2002. But Chung persistently said the plan was inefficient.
|Lawmakers from Chungcheong-based Liberty Forward Party hold pickets opposing the endorsement of Chung Un-chan as new prime minister yesterday in the main chamber of the legislature. [YONHAP]|
Following President Lee’s final approval, Chung will be officially inaugurated today to replace the current Prime Minister Han Seung-soo. Han held his last Cabinet meeting yesterday. Accepting the confirmation, Chung told reporters, “I promise to work hard, keeping in mind my mother’s last advice, ‘When you ride in a palanquin, you need to first think about the shoulders of the palanquin bearers.’ As prime minister, I will do my best to support the President and unify the cabinet so that the country can overcome the economic crisis as soon as possible and revitalize the national economy.”
“It is fortunate that the approval [of Chung] has been made, despite some issues,” said Park Sun-kyoo, a Blue House spokesman in a briefing immediately after the vote. “We expect the new prime minister will play a huge role in improving national stature and taking care of the public.”
Meanwhile, 39 lawmakers from opposition parties, led by Rep. Yang Seung-jo of the Democratic Party, lodged a complaint with the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office against Chung for allegedly evading taxes by skipping a comprehensive income report to the National Tax Service and for accepting a bribe from a businessman.
The lawmakers claim that the former Seoul National University president didn’t report earnings of around 200 million won ($167,000), comprised of consulting fees for National Taiwan University, fees for serving as an advisor to Internet book shop YES24 and income from selling paintings by his wife, an amateur artist. They also allege that in receiving 10 million won from the chairman of the country’s biggest hat manufacturer last year and some allowances from the head of Seoul National University Hospital while he was SNU president, Chung is subject to a bribery charge.
Separately, the GNP said yesterday it is seeking to revise regulations on confirmation hearings, claiming the hearing sessions have served as a venue for political attacks against appointees for top government posts rather than truly assessing the candidate’s capability, morality and other qualities.
Rep. Kim Jae-gyeong of the GNP, who heads a task force for reforming confirmation hearings, said on a radio show that hearings have deteriorated into political maneuvering and mudslinging.
By Seo Ji-eun [email@example.com]