Moon sarcastic about demand he bow outA day after he offered a public apology for controversial remarks he made during his years as a journalist, Prime Minister-designate Moon Chang-keuk bluntly rebuffed the opposition party’s demand to abandon his nomination.
“Go ask the opposition party about that,” said Moon on his way to a temporary office in the central government complex yesterday when asked about the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy’s demand for him to drop his candidacy amid heated debate over his historical views.
Moon’s blunt and sarcastic remark yesterday raised the ire of the major opposition party, which called it “very provocative and inept” for a figure nominated for high public office.
“Only a day after he offered an apology (for remarks in the past), his response today lacked common courtesy,” said Park Kwang-on, spokesman of the NPAD, at the National Assembly yesterday.
Park said Moon’s remark illustrated his “belittling” and “elitist” attitude toward the general public, 65 percent of whom support Moon’s withdrawal. He did not back up the 65 percent figure.
Moon, a former editor-in-chief of the JoongAang Ilbo, where he worked for 38 years until his retirement last year, has been embroiled in controversy over a number of remarks he made and columns he wrote for the paper.
In one heavily criticized speech delivered at a church in Seoul in 2011, the 66-year-old nominee said Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula and the country’s division after the 1950-1953 Korean War were all part of God’s plan for Koreans.
Facing growing questions about his historical views, Moon held a press briefing Sunday and offered his apology to anyone hurt by his remarks.
“I know there are people hurt [by my remarks], though it was not intentional,” said Moon during the briefing on Sunday. “I express my sincere apology to them.”
A day after the apology, another controversy in his past arose. It was disclosed that Moon attended three semesters of a masters program in political science at Seoul National University from 1974 and 1975 when he was doing his military service as a commissioned Navy officer.
Rep. Bae Jae-jeung of the NPAD, who disclosed Moon’s academic records from SNU, said Moon was able to go to school during his time in the military because he received “undue favor.”
In response to the allegation, the Prime Minister Office’s public relations team said yesterday Moon attended the graduate school with the approval of the Navy chief of staff at the time. It denied any irregularity in the matter.
President Park Geun-hye’s choice for prime minister prepared yesterday for what many expect to be tough confirmation hearings at the National Assembly. The NPAD made it clear it will work hard to force Moon to give up his candidacy through the hearings.
Rep. Park Jie-won of the NPAD, former presidential chief of staff in the Kim Dae-jung government, remarked last week that he will confront Moon at the hearings with the “most brutal language” he can find.
Even within the ruling Saenuri Party, some lawmakers have voiced their opposition to Moon’s nomination, saying it will only “add more distrust for the Park administration,” which is still reeling from the sinking of the Sewol ferry in April.
Rep. Lee Jae-oh of the Saenuri Party said via Twitter yesterday that a negative outcome of a parliamentary vote for Moon’s confirmation was already “determined.”
To become prime minister, Moon needs to receive consent of half the National Assembly, or at least 143 lawmakers. The ruling Saenuri commands the loyalty of 148 lawmakers while the NPAD has 126.
The Blue House is expected to send a motion today requesting the National Assembly hold confirmation hearings.
BY KANG JIN-KYU [email@example.com]