Justice minister choice causes rupture in GNP

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Justice minister choice causes rupture in GNP


Kwon Jae-jin

President Lee Myung-bak’s plan to appoint a new justice minister created a rupture in the Grand National Party as young, reformist lawmakers formally protested the possibility of naming the senior civil affairs secretary to the post.

According to Blue House officials, Kwon Jae-jin, senior Blue House civil affairs secretary, is expected to be appointed as the justice minister, while Han Sang-dae, head of the Seoul Central District Office, will be appointed as the new prosecutor general.

“We are taking steps to consult with the ruling party to appoint the justice minister and prosecutor general,” a Blue House official said yesterday. He said the announcements will be made as early as today, after final verification procedures.

While Cha Dong-min, head of the Seoul High Prosecutors’ Office, is considered as Kwon’s successor at the Blue House, the official said the presidential office will take more time to fill the vacancy.

As the Blue House moves to reshuffle the leadership of the nation’s law enforcement authorities, a group of first-term lawmakers of the Grand National Party yesterday issued a statement to protest the nominations.

They also asked the party leadership to summon a general lawmakers’ assembly to collect the legislators’ opinions about the planned appointment.

“The GNP and the Lee administration will both lose the public’s trust if Kwon is appointed as the justice minister,” their statement said. “It is inappropriate to stir up the fairness dispute ahead of the legislative and presidential elections.”

The lawmakers also said the GNP had been opposed to former President Roh Moo-hyun’s attempt to appoint his civil affairs senior secretary Moon Jae-in as the justice minister, urging the ruling party leadership to remember what they had done in the past.

Representative Jeong Tae-keun also said allegations surrounding Kwon over the savings bank crisis will disappoint the public if his appointment is pushed forward. Kwon has been named as one of the targets of the Busan Savings Bank Group’s lobbying activities and was recently asked to testify at the next week’s National Assembly investigation on the scandal.

Other senior members of the GNP also expressed concerns about the planned appointment of Kwon. “He is a qualified man with abilities, but concerns grow ahead of the election year,” Representative Na Kyung-won, a GNP Supreme Council member, said yesterday in a radio interview. “I am worried that we will lose the improved rating from Pyeongchang’s winning [by appointing Kwon].”

Lee loyalists, however, disagreed, arguing that the president’s right to appoint a minister must be respected. “For a smooth operation of the government, a minister must share the philosophy with the president,” said Representative Kim Young-woo. “Unless there is a crucial flaw, the president’s plan must be respected.”

GNP Chairman Hong Joon-pyo said yesterday that it is wrong for the ruling party to have an official party opinion on the cabinet appointment. “It should be left to each lawmaker’s judgment,” Hong said.

Hong still said he will listen to the lawmakers’ opinion, and Lee should also listen to it and make a decision. “This government has made many failed appointments, and I also criticized that,” Hong said. “The shortcomings in capabilities and ethics must be pointed out, but it is inappropriate to oppose the appointment by citing the public sentiment.”

Hong said yesterday morning that the Blue House has not yet informed him about the planned appointments of the justice minister and the prosecutor general.

While the opposition Democratic Party and some Grand Nationals oppose the plan to name Kwon as the justice minister, the Blue House officials appear to think Kwon is perhaps the only possible candidate for the job.

Kwon, who had worked as a prosecutor from 1983 till 2009, is favored because he is relatively free from the Korean legal community’s practice of giving special favors to former prosecutors and retired judges when they work as private lawyers.

Chung Tong-gi, Kwon’s predecessor at the Blue House, was named to be the head of the Board of Audit and Inspection, but his nomination was withdrawn in January after he lost support of the ruling party over his high wages from a law firm. For seven months of service, Chung received 690 million won ($652,000).

Kwon has not worked as a private lawyer. After passing the bar exam in 1978, he worked for the prosecution until he left the chief post of the Seoul High Prosecutors’ Office to become the civil affairs senior secretary in 2009.

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

한글 관련 기사 [연합]

한나라, ‘권재진 법무장관 기용’ 찬반 논란

권재진 청와대 민정수석의 법무부 장관 기용설을 둘러싸고 한나라당 내 논란이 가열되는 양상이다.

한나라당 초선의원 모임인 `민본 21`은 14일 오전 국회의원 회관에서 모임을 하고 이 문제를 논의했다. 참석자 다수는 권 수석의 법무부장관 기용 방침에 부정적 입장을 밝히면서, 성명 발표와 함께 의원총회 소집을 요구하기로 했다.

그러나 친이(친이명박)계 일각에서는 권 수석의 기용이 문제될 게 없다는 상반된 반응을 나타냈다.

`민본 21` 모임에서 정태근 의원은 "실제 당내 다수 의원들이 부적절한 인사라고 함에도 불구하고 홍준표 대표는 당의 의견을 청와대에 전하는 것이 아니라 `나는 반대하지 않는다`고 이야기하는게 적절한가"라며 "최고위원들이 직을 걸고 이번 인사가 강행되지 않게 하는게 중요하다"고 주장했다.

또 "다음주부터 저축은행 사태와 관련해 국회 국정조사가 진행될 예정인데 이미 권재진 수석은 국조의 증인요청을 받고 있다"며 "잘못된 인사가 반복돼왔는데, 국민들에게 실망을 안겨주지 않는게 중요하다"고 말했다.

주광덕 의원도 "청와대는 6공 시절에 민정수석을 검찰총장에 임명한 사례가 있다고 변명하고 있다"며 "그러나 민정수석의 법무부 장관 임명은 당내 의원들 뿐 아니라 민심과도 동떨어지고 시대정신에도 맞지않는 부적절한 인사"라고 비판했다.

특히 그는 홍 대표를 겨냥해 "법무장관 인사와 관련해 당 대표가 의원들의 의사를 제대로 살피지 않고 불쑥불쑥 말을 하는데 앞으로 당 운영을 그렇게 하면 독선적으로 흐르지 않을까 우려된다"고 지적했다.

나경원 최고위원은 라디오에 출연해 "권 수석의 경우 자질이나 능력에서는 참으로 뛰어나다는 평가이지만 내년 총선과 대선을 앞두고 법무부 장관으로 가는 부분에 대해서는 상당히 논란과 우려가 있다"며 "이러한 인사로 인해 실질적으로 평창에서 딴 점수를 다 잃게 되는 것이 아닌가 걱정이 많이 된다"고 말했다.

당 쇄신모임인 `새로운 한나라`의 김성태 의원도 라디오에 나와 "내년 총선을 앞두고 선거관리 공정성 시비의 선입견을 갖게 할 수 있는 측근인사는 집권당인 한나라당 입장에서도 결코 도움이 되지 않는다"며 "대통령은 임기말 국정운영과 선거관리의 공정성에 의심을 받을 수 있는 무리한 인사는 굳이 할 필요가 없다"고 강조했다.

그는 "권 수석은 최근 검찰과 경찰의 수사권 조정 갈등 당시에도 볼썽사나운 모습을 제대로 풀어내거나 막지 못했다"며 "`새로운 한나라` 소속 의원들은 권 수석의 장관 내정에 대해 대체로 부적절하다는 의견"이라고 말했다.

반면 친이(친이명박) 직계인 조해진 의원은 연합뉴스와의 통화에서 "권 수석은 검찰에서 존경받는 분으로 알고 있다. 한나라의 반대 논리는 그가 참모 출신이라는 것인데, 나는 지난 정권에서부터 한나라당이 그런 논리를 내세울 때부터 동의하지 않았다"며 권 수석의 법무부장관 임명에 긍정적 입장을 밝혔다.

그는 "대통령에게 장관은 참모이며, 참모가 대통령의 철학을 이해하고 소통하고 신임받는다는 것은 일을 하는데 장점이지 결격사유가 될 수 없다"며 "그것은 국회와 사법부, 언론이 견제하면 된다"고 주장했다.

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