Hearings no laughing matterConfirmation hearings for key government officials have become a joke, except no one’s laughing.
Recently nominated candidates have each had obvious flaws and are surrounded in controversy. Yet the hearings have failed to address the allegations against these individuals effectively, and many question marks remain.
This has further eroded trust in the government and lawmakers, leaving a stain on the nation’s political scene.
The recent confirmation hearings for Knowledge Economy Minister-nominee Choi Joong-kyung and Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister-nominee Choung Byung-gug are two of the most recent examples. Legislators raised questions about the use of inside information by Choi’s family to make lucrative investments in development sites, but what exactly happened never came to light.
Although Choi said that he was not aware of the deals, he should take responsibility as a senior government official even if he was not directly involved.
Choung has also been suspected of engaging in real estate speculation by falsifying documents. More irritating than the allegations, however, is that the three-term lawmaker tried to schmooze lawmakers opposed to his nomination in an attempt to wriggle his way out of the jam. He lauded Democratic Party floor leader Park Jie-won as the best culture minister in the nation’s history. Additionally, Choung’s colleagues in the ruling party acted more like cheerleaders during the hearing than responsible government officials.
What’s most disheartening is the fact that despite these flaws, the two candidates will most likely ascend to their new offices, as the hearing process itself is faulty. The hearings are more of a theatrical display rather than a serious effort to thoroughly examine the nominees. If the legislators are serious about their roles, they should first change the hearing process.
One-day hearings are simply too short to thoroughly vet the candidates. In the United States, there is no time limit on confirmation hearings. Required materials are extensive, and giving false testimony is a serious offense.
Confirmation hearings in Korea should not turn into another ring for political brawls. They should serve as a vehicle for enhancing effective governance. Both the government and politicians should work to reform the system so that they can improve their standing with the public.