DP digs in heels on cabinet nominee

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DP digs in heels on cabinet nominee

President Lee Myung-bak’s nominee for knowledge economy minister faced a cold snub by the Democrats yesterday when the opposition lawmakers refused to convene a committee meeting to endorse his appointment.

Choi Joong-kyung, former vice minister of finance and senior secretary to the president for economic affairs, was grilled by the Democrats about his wife’s real estate investments in a tough confirmation hearing Tuesday.

DP floor leader Park Jie-won and the party’s members on the Knowledge Economy Committee of the National Assembly decided yesterday to fiercely oppose Choi’s cabinet appointment.

“Compared to his predecessor Lee Jae-hoon, Choi is far worse,” Park said. “His nomination must be withdrawn.”

Five months ago, Lee Jae-hoon gave up his nomination to the same post after Democrats accused his wife during his confirmation hearing of profiting on real estate with insider information.

The Democratic Party refused to convene the Knowledge Economy Committee, which is headed by DP lawmaker Kim Young-hwan. “I have no intention to cooperate in adopting the confirmation hearing report,” Kim said.

“The committee meeting won’t take place for a while,” he said.

Despite the Democrats’ fierce opposition, the legislature’s role in confirming the nomination is nonbinding. If the committee doesn’t endorse the nominee, the president has the right to urge the National Assembly to complete the process. Even if it doesn’t, the president has the right to appoint a cabinet minister anyway, and President Lee has done so three times in the past.

Contrary to Choi’s ordeal, Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister-nominee Choung Byoung-gug was given the green light yesterday when his confirmation hearing report was adopted by the ruling-party dominated legislature.

The National Assembly’s culture committee, which had been chaired by Choung himself, convened yesterday and approved the report on Choung.

The Democrats boycotted the session.

“Having served on the culture committee for 11 years, Choung has built up enough specific knowledge in the cultural sector,” the report said, adding that he is fit to serve in the post.

At the same time, the report stated that Choung failed to provide convincing explanations for some of the allegations raised at his confirmation hearing.It also noted that Choung, a three-term lawmaker, may only serve in the cabinet for 10 months if he decides to run for another term next year.

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

Related Korean Article [중앙일보]

목청 높인 괘씸죄 … 민주당 “최틀러 NO”
“반드시 낙마시킬 것” … 정병국 청문보고서 채택만 협조

국회가 19일 정병국 문화체육관광부 장관 후보자의 인사청문 경과보고서를 채택했다. 그러나 최중경 지식경제부 장관 후보자의 청문보고서 채택은 무산됐다.

민주당 소속인 김영환 지식경제위원장이 “‘최틀러’(최 후보자의 별명) 같은 고압적인 답변 태도”를 문제 삼아 상임위 회의를 거부했기 때문이다. 국회가 보고서를 채택하지 않더라도 최 후보자는 장관이 될 수 있다. 인사청문 요청일로부터 20일 이후 임명할 수 있다는 규정에 따라 이명박 대통령이 25일 이후에는 청문회가 끝난 만큼 장관 임명이 가능하다.

민주당은 이날 최 후보자 답변 태도를 놓고 격앙했다. 배우자의 투기 의혹에 ‘괘씸죄’까지 보태진 셈이다.

박지원 원내대표는 오전 당 소속 지경위원들과의 회의에서 “‘의원님도 시간을 오버해서 질문했으니 나도 시간을 오버해서 답변하겠다’는 것은 국민을 무시하는 것”이라며 “만약 장관이 된다고 해도 민간 기업인에게 어떤 태도를 보일지 의심하지 않을 수 없다”고 말했다. 투기 의혹과 관련해서도 “5개월 전 (이재훈 전 후보자) 인사청문회를 생각하면 후회가 된다. 파출소 피했다가 이번에 경찰서를 만났다”며 “최 후보자는 이 후보자와 비교도 되지 않을 정도다. 반드시 (최 후보자는) 낙마해야 한다”고 말했다. 상임위 사회권을 가진 김영환 위원장도 “청문보고서 채택에 전혀 협조할 생각이 없다. 지경위 회의는 당분간 없을 것”이라고 선언했다. …

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