Why Did We Bother with Confirmation Hearing for New PM?

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Why Did We Bother with Confirmation Hearing for New PM?

The confirmation hearing for Prime Minister-designate Lee Han-dong at the National Assembly, a procedure that has been introduced to Korea recently, revealed some of Lee's previous illegal actions. However, it quickly became a simple 'rubber stamping’ process by failing to have any effect on the vote of the National Assembly. Having observed this process, we would like to point out that several fundamental modifications are necessary for the National Assembly to retain the confirmation hearing as a regular part of its system.

There were only 10 days available to prepare for this hearing. Moreover, the hearing itself was only held for two days, which was far too short and on top of this the government did not submit some parts of the document requested by the special commission, thereby aggravating the unproductive nature of the hearing. The National Assembly must receive detailed and faithful information, at least the criminal history of the candidate as well as records on current personal wealth and taxation, from the government. In some countries, after carrying out the confirmation hearing, certain candidates have failed to be appointed on the basis of the information reviewed. It is definitely a very serious matter that the government would not submit these important documents. Therefore, sufficient preparation time to carry out a proper investigation must be provided. Moreover, countermeasures against the government must be established if it submits poor information or omits or manipulates data.

If the candidate for the public service position bears false witness, this should definitely be revealed. It is undoubtely problematic if the charge of perjury can be applied to all other witnesses, but not a candidate for public office, thus allowing the candidate to tell boldfaced lies. Furthermore, it is impossible to understand why the special commission was closed due to the imposed time limit, even though the witnesses requested by the special commission had not even attended the hearing.

This was without a doubt an action which degraded the power and authority of the National Assembly. Therefore, the National Assembly Testimony Appraisal Law must be invoked at the confirmation hearing. It is certainly not acceptable when the special commission submits a pointless report, in which the judgement and evaluation of the commission is totally omitted on the insistence that the confirmation hearing is not in fact an investigation hearing. Moreover, it can only be seen as backing up the illegal actions, which were testified to and confirmed during the process of the hearing.

The nomination of the current candidate for Prime Minister was carried out before the Confirmation Hearing Law was established. Therefore, the candidate was given the position of 'acting Prime Minister' during the procedure. However, this is clearly unconstitutional. From now on, all candidates must be evaluated as 'nominees' during the confirmation hearings, and the official appointment must only be made after obtaining the approval of the National Assembly.

Since the nomination of Prime Minister Lee was really a political maneuver, the process and outcome of the confirmation hearing were also politically arranged. Some lawmakers from the ruling party and the United Liberal Democrats showed behavior and attitudes below the standards expected of them, and the opposition party could not avoid the criticism that they entered the hearing without carrying out the proper preparation.

As the lawmakers attended and carried out the hearing without any proper preparation, but only on the basis of political maneuvering, the hearing, which was introduced by the National Assembly in order to empower lawmakers themselves, became nothing but a charade. In addition, the ultimate outcome of the hearing was to aggravated current doubts surrounding the competence of lawmakers.

Unless these issues are dealt with, confirmation hearings to approve public service candidates will be nothing but opportunities for political maneuvering.

by Lee Kye-young

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