Park’s former nominee decries excess nationalism

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Park’s former nominee decries excess nationalism

South Koreans expressed mixed reactions to a newspaper essay by Korean-American Kim Jeong-hoon, President Park Geun-hye’s failed nominee for minister of the Science, ICT and Future Planning Ministry, who wrote that excessive Korean nationalism doomed his nomination.

Kim contributed an essay to the Washington Post published March 30 entitled “A return to South Korea, thwarted by nationalism.”

Kim gave his version of why he walked away from the post of heading the new, powerful ministry created by President Park.

“On March 4, I withdrew my candidacy when it became abundantly clear that the current political and business environment would impede me - an outsider - from carrying out the mission of this ministry,” he wrote. “Change-resistant forces in the political and bureaucratic circles and certain business spheres naturally raised objections to my candidacy, mostly on the basis of my nationality and presumed lack of allegiance.”

He said he was also victimized by a “witch hunt by Internet and mainstream media reports” regarding his career and family.

“Some, for example, theorized that I was a spy,” he said. “My wife was accused of being associated with a brothel.”

When it came to the issue of his dual citizenship, Kim suggested South Korea get beyond knee-jerk nationalism. “In the 21st century, the most successful countries and economies will be those that can move beyond the old prejudices concerning nationality,” he wrote.

Some Koreans agreed with Kim’s essay, while others felt piqued.

“What he said is not wrong,” a Twitter user called PKim0307 wrote on Naver, Korea’s most popular portal Web site. Another Naver user, named jayu****, said, “I’m sorry, Mr. Kim. Koreans are jealous of Americans, but they would never embrace them because of their inferiority complex (about the U.S.).”

Another Naver user, whose name was shown as “ghee****,” said in a comment recommended by about 830 people: “We need to listen carefully to what he says. Why can’t we recruit a Korean-American with great potential if we could bring Guus Hiddink to reform Korean soccer?”

“Mr. Kim, don’t blame nationalism. Blame it on democracy instead,” wrote S. Jeong, commenting on the Washington Post site. “South Koreans, just like Americans, deserve a chance to scrutinize and question in-depth cabinet office candidates regarding their track-records. Questions regarding patriotism and prior affiliations are always fair game during hearings. Haven’t you seen the Chuck Hagel confirmation hearings?”

Another user named “sung****” said in a comment on Nate, a popular portal site for young Koreans, “If he felt he was innocent, he should have attended a confirmation hearing.” Kim withdrew his nomination before a confirmation hearing.

Some comments were merely critical. A user of Daum named “Silent praying” wrote in a comment recommended by about 2,300 people: “Kim, now you confessed what you really thought to the media in America, a country you truly love. Now your supporters can realize your false love for the Republic of Korea.”

The opposition Democratic United Party also criticized Kim.

“He didn’t explain the allegations against him and now he only blames Korea,” Park Yong-jin, a spokesman of the DUP, said at a daily briefing yesterday.


By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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