Kim has some explaining to doWhen Kim Yong-joon, chairman of President-elect Park Geun-hye’s transition committee, was nominated as prime minister last week, the media was generally positive toward the choice in terms of Kim’s integrity and the morality required of someone in a post second only to the president. In just a few days, however, everything was turned upside down after suspicions arose over his two sons’ alleged draft-dodging and doubtful acquisitions of real estate.
His first son, who was 22 years old in 1989, was exempted from mandatory military service because his height and weight were below the standard. His second son, 25 years old in 1994, received the same treatment because he suffered from gout. The two cases are reminiscent of the curse afflicting presidential candidate Lee Hoi-chang in the 1997 and 2002 presidential elections after allegations about his two sons’ draft-dodging arose. Lee lost in both elections - even though the allegations turned out to be false.
Anyway, the image of the conservatives as draft dodgers emerged from that time. The Lee Myung-bak administration has long been ridiculed as a regime exempted from military service because many members of the cabinet, including the prime minister, didn’t serve. Current Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik first refused to accept his nomination as prime minister because of his exemption from service.
Allegations about Kim’s suspicious land deals linger, too. His sons acquired a 7,117 square-foot plot of land in the posh neighborhood of Seocho-dong, southern Seoul, in 1975 when they were under the age of 10. Kim explained that his wealthy mother purchased it for her grandchildren. But he didn’t say if she paid any inheritance tax.
Military service and real estate dealings are critical issues to judge the qualifications of a candidate for a high government post. People are embarrassed and angry to once again see the specter of draft-dodging and suspicious land deals haunting a public figure.
We have doubts whether the transition team properly scrutinized Kim. It takes more than two weeks for the team to look into a background. If Kim’s comment that he was informed of the nomination several days ago is correct, it must have been a short probe. We understand the plight of the prime minister nominee given a sudden spate of suspicions raised by the press. At the same time, we wonder if Park’s team botched a crucial verification process.
Kim must dispel the suspicions.