[EDITORIALS]Fair hearings for Mr. Lee

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[EDITORIALS]Fair hearings for Mr. Lee

Diverse opinions exist among the public and political community over the nomination of Lee Hai-chan as a candidate for prime minister. If President Roh Moo-hyun presents the appointment bill to the National Assembly, the Assembly will hold confirmation hearings.
We hope that Mr. Lee can be thoroughly and fairly evaluated during the hearing process so that his capabilities and experience can be verified.
Mr. Lee is a five-term lawmaker who has also served as a deputy mayor of Seoul and as education minister. Such good experience will suffice for the prime minister’s position. What is controversial now, however, is the policies he formulated as an education minister in the Kim Dae-jung administration.
Educational groups have voiced their opposition to him. Teachers who had to leave their jobs because of Mr. Lee’s policy to cut the retirement age for teachers, in particular, are expressing animosity toward him. Because of the lowering of the retirement age, some schools in the provinces still suffer from a shortage of teachers.
Also, his policy that “if a student excels in one area only, he or she can enter university” brought criticism that it lowered students’ scholastic abilities and undermined public education.
But there is praise for his educational policies as well. The view that his critical mind and the direction of his policies were correct abounds. Some point out that the cut in the retirement age was inevitable to improve teaching quality.
Also, there was a public consensus at the time that the university entrance exam should be changed as Mr. Lee suggested. The current problems in education should not be attributed only to Mr. Lee.
Still, Mr. Lee’s point that a powerful prime minister will not fit into Korea’s political reality is disappointing. Does he want to remain a “ceremonial prime minister” as his predecessors did? Such a prime minister won’t need to be rigorously evaluated in Assembly hearings.
We hope that the hearings are practical ones to verify Mr. Lee’s capabilities. The hearings should not focus, as in the past, on trivial matters. The public wants to know whether Mr. Lee is the right person for the reborn Roh administration.
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