Fierce opposition forces Chung out
Chung Tong-gi, President Lee Myung-bak’s nominee to head the Board of Audit and Inspection, threw in the towel yesterday after losing the support of the ruling party, and declared himself “free.”
“I have decided to step down as BAI chair-nominee today,” said Chung at his office in Seoul. “I would like to give my apology to the citizens, whatever the truth may be on the controversies that have arisen over my candidacy.”
Chung was gaunt as he read a bitter and angry speech he said he had prepared in the early hours of yesterday. The night before, Chung had told reporters he would “think about it for one more night.”
“I have been loyal to the duties that were given me and lived honestly to my standards,” he said. “I can proudly say that I have managed myself well through my life without doing anything worth anyone’s suspicions or criticism.
“Despite all of this, my financial assets and experiences, as well as my privacy, were distorted and trampled on because of the nomination for BAI chairman,” Chung said.
The former senior secretary to the president for civil affairs denounced allegations that he had used his influence at the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office to help Lee win the presidential election in 2007. He also denied involvement in a scandal over the Prime Minister’s Office’s illegal spying on private citizens critical of the Lee administration.
“I could not help but lament that these issues, these false claims, were made out to be established facts,” Chung said.
As for the pay he received for working at a law firm after leaving his position at the Prosecutors’ Office, Chung said he had received monthly wages of roughly 30 million won ($26,899), not the 100 million won that had been reported in the media, and it was a performance bonus he received when he left the firm after seven months that had “distressed citizens.” His total pay for seven months was reportedly 690 million won.
“The wages of a lawyer who has thirty years of experience will definitely be different from the income of one who has just started out,” Chung said.
He also spoke bitterly of the ruling Grand National Party’s opposition to his nomination. Earlier this week, GNP Chairman Ahn Sang-soo said Chung was “unfit” for the position, opening a chasm between the ruling party and the Blue House.
“The ruling party, which is in charge of government affairs, has urged me to resign without any inquiry or the process of verifying the truth through a confirmation hearing,” Chung said, labeling the situation “absurd.”
“Demanding a withdrawal without a confirmation hearing is the same as sentencing a man to death without a trial,” he said.
The main opposition Democratic Party had demanded the Blue House withdraw its nomination of Chung from the start.
“It was a natural result,” said Representative Jeon Hyun-heui, spokeswoman for the DP. “The root of this problem is President Lee’s flawed personnel philosophy. There should be an apology issued from the president and an investigation and questioning into the Blue House officials responsible for the reshuffle.”
“If he was going to [withdraw] this late, then it would have been better for the Blue House to retract his nomination than Chung withdrawing on his own,” said Representative Park Sun-young, spokeswoman of the Liberty Forward Party. “A person who is on his way out should be without words, and it’s a pity he has said too many.”
The GNP kept up a calm front, calling Chun’s withdrawal a “painful decision” and signaling that it wanted to mend relations with the Blue House.
“The party and the Blue House are one,” said GNP floor leader Kim Moo-sung yesterday. “The problem has come to a close with Chung’s withdrawal.”
President Lee was cited by his spokesman, Hong Sang-pyo, yesterday as saying he expressed “pity” over the withdrawal. The Blue House said it was already looking for the next nominee for the empty BAI chairman position.
Chung said he will also resign as CEO of the Korean Government Legal Service, which he has been since 2009, and “attend to his family.”
By Christine Kim [email@example.com]
정동기 “난 일류대 못 나와 … 마이너리그로 살아왔다”
정동기 감사원장 후보자는 12일 사퇴 기자회견에서 자신의 사퇴를 요구한 한나라당 지도부에 대한 불편한 감정을 숨기지 않았다. 그는 서울 통의동 금융감독원 별관 사무실에서 직접 작성한 발표문을 읽으며 “당장 할 말은 많았지만 청문회를 통해 국민께 설명할 기회를 기다려 왔다”며 “아무리 중죄인이라도 말은 들어보는 게 도리인데 집권 여당이 대통령이 지명한 후보자에게 청문회 기회조차 박탈하는 어처구니없는 상황이 됐다”고 말했다.
지난주 야당이 의혹을 제기했을 때만 해도 정 후보자는 “원래 다 그런 것이니 걱정하지 말라”며 자신감을 내비쳤다. 하지만 10일 전혀 예상치 못한 곳(여당)에서 사퇴 요구가 나오자 정 후보자는 지인들에게 “나는 그간 마이너리그로 살았다”며 억울해했다고 한다. 한양대 출신인 그는 검찰에 있을 때 비주류로 분류됐다. 그의 사퇴 발표문에 “어려운 가정 형편으로 일류 대학을 나오지 못했다”고 한 대목은 그때 느낀 한(恨)의 일단을 표현한 것이라는 게 주변 사람들의 해석이다. 정 후보자는 이날 오전 9시쯤 사무실로 출근한 다음 혼자 2시간가량 사퇴 발표문을 다듬었다. 이어 검은 넥타이 차림으로 기자회견을 열고 발표문을 읽었다. 그는 “청문회 없이 사퇴를 요구하는 것은 재판 없이 사형 선고를 하는 것”이라며 “청문 절차를 정치 행위로 봉쇄한 과정은 살아 있는 법을 정치로 폐지한 것으로 법치주의에 커다란 오점이 될 것”이라고 말했다.