Moon pledges to explain truth behind remarksOnce again affirming his determination to go ahead with his nomination, Prime Minister-designate Moon Chang-keuk said yesterday that he will reveal his “true intentions” in front of lawmakers at confirmation hearings to “fix misunderstandings.”
“I have been preparing hard for confirmation hearings as there have been misunderstandings [over my remarks] among the public as well as lawmakers,” said Moon while on his way to a temporary office at the central government’s annex building in Changseong-dong, Jongno District, central Seoul, yesterday.
The nominee added that he will explain the real meaning embedded in his past speeches and writing.
Moon, a former editor-in-chief of the JoongAng Ilbo, where he worked for 38 years before retiring last year, has been embroiled in controversy over a number of comments he made and columns he wrote while at the newspaper.
In a heavily criticized speech delivered at a church in Seoul in 2011, the 66-year-old said Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula and the country’s division after the 1950-1953 Korean War were part of God’s plan for Koreans.
Mindful of the controversy a remark he made about Japan’s 36-year colonial rule over Koreans has sparked, Moon launched a strongly worded criticism of the neighboring country for its insincere apology for past wartime atrocities.
The nominee came under fire for stating in a lecture aimed at university students that Korea should not demand Japan apologize or compensate for its mobilization of young women as sexual slaves during World War II.
But when asked yesterday about Japan’s recent move to re-examine the landmark 1993 Kono Statement, in which the nation acknowledged its forced sexual slavery and apologized for it, Moon lashed out at the neighboring country by backing the idea that the reinvestigation is an effort to tarnish the significance the symbolic avowal holds.
“I have always thought Japan’s forced mobilization was a crime against humanity,” said Moon.
“It leaves us no other option but to interpret that Japan has no desire to make a sincere apology for a historical fact for which they apologized before but now are on a move to undermine.”
The former journalist added that he wondered if Japan “could become a truly close neighbor” of Korea.
Despite Moon’s unwavering will to go ahead with his nomination, the ruling Saenuri Party saw increasing discord yesterday over President Park Geun-hye’s pick.
“Candidate Moon must carefully consider what will be in the best interest of the people,” said Representative Suh Chung-won of the Saenuri during a meeting with reporters yesterday at the ruling party headquarters.
The seven-term lawmaker added that Moon should reflect on his past deeds and try to have a sense of public will.
Suh’s comment yesterday was interpreted as a call on Moon to drop his candidacy. When asked if his comment was an urge for Moon’s resignation, the lawmaker did not deny the speculation.
“It’s up to you to interpret what I just said,” Suh stated.
A close aide of Suh’s, who was at the meeting and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the remark was the lawmaker’s demand for Moon to bow out.
Given Suh’s stature inside the ruling party and his political closeness to President Park Geun-hye, the senior lawmaker’s comment yesterday displayed growing agitation and worries over the former journalist’s nomination, especially with the July 30 by-election now a month away.
At least six Saenuri lawmakers publicly announced their opposition to Moon’s nomination, clouding the prospect that he will pass a parliamentary vote after confirmation hearings.
To become prime minister, Moon needs to receive the 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.
Even if all NPAD lawmakers cast negative votes, the Saenuri could still pass the nomination given the number of lawmakers it commands, but only if it succeeds in cajoling the six who expressed their disapproval of Moon.
Adding another headache for the ruling party, first-term Saenuri lawmaker Kim Sang-min continued his critical drumbeat yesterday, likening Moon’s nomination for prime minister to Korea surrendering to Japan in the battle over historical issues.
There is a growing sense of worry that the ruling party could experience defeat in highly contested races in the upcoming by-election, in which 14 district seats are up for grabs so far.
Because of the large number of contested races in the by-election, the ruling party and the NPAD have now shifted to campaign mode less than a month after the June 4 local elections.
BY KANG JIN-KYU [email@example.com ]