Chief auditor candidate gives up nomination after ruling party declares him 'unfit'
The president's pick for chief auditor gave up his nomination on Wednesday after being pounded for a nine-digit salary that he received from a law firm and his role in a prosecution probe that had implicated the president.
Chung Tong-ki, a former senior prosecutor, stepped down 12 days after President Lee Myung-bak named him on Dec. 31 to head the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) in a Cabinet reshuffle.
While apologetic for the controversy his nomination caused, Chung was bitter in his statement read to a news conference, saying his private life was "maliciously distorted and trodden upon" by political interests.
Chung came under fire after he was found to have received a monthly salary of about 100 million won (US$89,500) while working for a Seoul-based law firm for seven months in 2008, after serving briefly on Lee's presidential transition team.
The large paycheck cast him as highly privileged, an image that does not mesh well with the public or, as critics argue, the image of the top auditor.
The opposition also highlighted the nominee's role as a prosecutor in investigating a financial scam that involved President Lee, who was later cleared of charges. In the case widely known as the "BBK scandal" named after a company co-established by Lee and a Korean-American businessman, the partner was sentenced to jail for embezzlement and stock price manipulation. Lee won the presidential election in 2007 by a landslide in spite of the scandal.
Lawmakers also suspected Chung led the government's alleged surveillance of civilians as Lee's chief civil affairs aide.
On Monday, the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) declared him "unfit" for the position and asked him to bow out. Chung criticized the party, saying demanding him to resign before a confirmation hearing "was nothing short of a death sentence."
The unexpected move by the GNP irked the presidential office, which expressed "deep regret" at the GNP's decision. Political analysts saw the clash as a sign that the Lee administration was waning in power with two years left in its five-year term that ends in February 2013.
Critics have said the president's repeated appointment of his close confidants to key ministerial posts runs against a "fair society" drive that he launched as he passed the halfway point of his term last summer. [YONHAP]
'청문회 없이 사퇴 요구는 재판없는 사형 선고' "사생활, 정치적 이해 따라 악의적 왜곡.유린"
정동기 감사원장 후보자는 12일 "저는 오늘 감사원장 후보자 지위에서 사퇴하기로 결정했다"고 밝혔다.
그는 이날 통의동 금융연수원 별관에 마련된 후보자 사무실에서 기자회견을 갖고 "부족한 사람이 감사원장 후보자로 지명돼 각종 논란이 제기된 데 대해 그 진상이 어떻든 간에 국민 여러분께 송구하다는 말씀을 드린다"고 밝혔다.
정 후보자는 지난달 31일 내정 이후 전관예우 및 재산형성 과정, 민간인 사찰보고 논란 등이 제기되면서 야권은 물론 한나라당으로부터도 사퇴 압력이 제기돼 왔다.
그의 후보직 사퇴는 지난해 31일 내정 이후 12일만이다. 또 지난 2000년 감사원장에 대한 청문회가 도입된 이후 후보자가 청문회를 하기도 전에 사퇴한 것은 처음이다.
정 후보자가 자진 사퇴함에 따라 그의 사퇴 여부를 놓고 갈등 양상을 보였던 한나라당과 청와대 간의 관계가 수습 국면으로 접어들 수 있을지 주목된다.
그는 회견에서 "단 한분의 청문위원이라고 계신다면 끝까지 청문회에 임해 제 진정성을 보여드리고 싶었다"며 "그러나 저 한사람으로 인해 대통령에게 누를 끼치고 향후 초래될 국정의 혼란을 감안하니 차마 이를 고집할 수 없다는 결론에 이르렀다"고 사퇴 배경을 설명했다.