Prime Minister confirmation progressing quickly, smoothly

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Prime Minister confirmation progressing quickly, smoothly

Two days of confirmation hearings on the ethics and qualifications of Prime Minister-designate Kim Hwang-sik will take place Sept. 29 and 30, the ruling and opposition parties agreed yesterday.

A special committee to prepare for the hearing was formed yesterday by 13 lawmakers from four political parties. The committee scheduled a plenary session on Oct. 1 to vote on the motion to confirm Kim’s appointment as the prime minister.

Seven on the committee were from the ruling Grand National Party and four were from the opposition Democratic Party. One lawmaker each from the Liberty Forward and Creative Korea parties also joined the committee, which will grill Kim on his qualifications to become the next head of embattled Lee Myung-bak’s cabinet.

Kim, head of the Board of Audit and Inspection and a former Supreme Court justice, was named by Lee on Thursday to become the new prime minister. Although Blue House Public Affairs Senior Secretary Hong Sang-pyo said Thursday that the request to hold the confirmation hearing would be submitted to the legislature Monday, the presidential office actually submitted it Thursday afternoon, shortly after Kim’s nomination was announced.

Blue House spokesman Kim Hee-jung apologized yesterday for the confusion, adding that the confirmation hearing has to be completed within 15 days after the request is submitted, as required by law.

“The Blue House appreciates the ruling and opposition parties’ efforts to speedily process the nomination to minimize the administrative vacuum in the cabinet,” she said. “Although the 15-day period is stated under the law, the National Assembly has spent an average of 27 days to confirm prime minister appointments in the past. We appreciate the prompt progress at the legislature.”

After former Prime Minister-designate Kim Tae-ho withdrew his nomination amidst corruption allegations last month, the Blue House nominated Kim, highlighting his integrity and ties with the Jeolla region, the opposition’s traditional turf.

Lee Jae-oh, a GNP lawmaker and minister without portfolio handling top political issues, also met with Democratic Party floor leader Park Jie-won Thursday and sought the Democrats’ cooperation to confirm Kim.

During the two-hour meeting, the two political heavyweights talked about other issues, including rice aid to North Korea and the four rivers restoration project. Sources familiar with the meeting told the JoongAng Ilbo that the atmosphere was amicable.

It remains unclear if the Democrats will go easy on Kim at the confirmation hearings. Park said yesterday that his party will thoroughly check the 62-year-old veteran judge’s qualifications to head the cabinet, dismissing speculation that his Jeolla ties will give Kim a free pass in the hearings.

“Some say that the DP will go easy on Kim because he is from [South] Jeolla,” Park said. “No lawmakers with hometown and school ties to Kim will be assigned to the committee.”

None of the four DP lawmakers on the confirmation hearing committee are from Jeolla, but Representative Moon Hee-sang, who will head the committee, is a Seoul National University law school schoolmate of Kim. Another member, Kim Yoo-jung, is from Gwangju in South Jeolla.

Political observers also pointed out that this time the DP didn’t assign a “sniper” to the committee to dig up dirt, unlike last time around.

By Ser Myo-ja []
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