Confirmation concoctions

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Confirmation concoctions

The two-day confirmation hearing for Prime Minister-designate Kim Hwang-sik has turned into another theatrical, personality-bashing showdown between the ruling and opposition parties.

The main opposition Democratic Party, which initially welcomed the nomination because Kim was born and educated in South Jeolla - its home turf - is now busy digging up trivial issues to humiliate and damage the nominee. We cannot understand how tearing apart the nominee’s personal life and history helps to better assess his ability to assume the prime ministerial role.

When the presidential office announced the nomination, the DP, in an unusually generous statement, welcomed the appointment of a figure from a region long regarded as the voting base for opposition and dissidents. DP floor leader Park Jie-won praised the candidate’s sharp eye in adapting to new environments and jobs. But the opposition party suddenly changed its attitude, faced with criticism of going soft on a nominee from its voting base. It may have wanted to save face, but defaming a respectable nominee for purely political motives is neither mature nor moral.

If the opposition has doubts, they should raise them, hear out the explanation, and make judgments afterwards. It is not their prerogative to decide whether to go soft or hard on a particular nominee in a confirmation hearing. They are questioning and screening the nominees on behalf of the public to decide if they are fit for an executive public role. It is embarrassing to hear politicians casually talk about going easy on someone from their same hometown in the confirmation process, or protest overly harsh questioning of a nominee with such an “advantage.”

If there are suspicions, they should be clarified in the hearings. But it is childish to start up a rumor mill without giving the nominee an opportunity to explain himself. We can only assume the bombshell revelations are aimed to impair the nominee’s image and character. Some of the speculations are so preposterous that we have to question the intelligence of the lawmakers who brought them forward.

DP floor leader Park said the opposition members should go a little easy on the nominees as few will ever get through the process if they keep up this level of animus in confirmation hearings. He’s never been so right.

Confirmation is not a chess game for lawmakers to treat nominees as pawns they can save or kill. The confirmation hearing members must distance themselves from political interests and concentrate on the purpose of such hearings: to assess if the nominee is qualified to do the job.

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