Park puts off the motion for Moon’s nomination

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Park puts off the motion for Moon’s nomination

President Park Geun-hye is delaying any motion to the National Assembly to confirm the appointment of Moon Chang-keuk as prime minister until after she returns from a six-day trip to Central Asia on Saturday, the Blue House said yesterday.

“President Park will reconsider the motion to approve the appointment of the prime ministerial candidate and the request for a parliamentary confirmation hearing,” presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook told reporters accompanying the president on Air Force One before departing from Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, for Samarkand.

“There are crucial announcements concerning economic and diplomatic affairs during the trip,” Min said. “[The president] will concentrate on such important issues while traveling … She has been briefed by her senior secretaries on the domestic situation.”

The nomination of the former editor in chief of the JoongAng Ilbo has hit choppy waters after his controversial comments and columns from the past resurfaced.

Harsher critics interpret the president’s decision yesterday as a tacit sign that Moon should voluntarily withdraw from the candidacy. Moon told reporters later in the day that he would sincerely prepare for the hearing in the days before the president comes back.

If the president decides to push ahead, the submission of the motion and request for a confirmation hearing will be made Monday at the earliest - nearly two weeks after Moon was nominated.

Moon has been under mounting pressure to walk away from the nomination by the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) as well as some non-mainstream senior lawmakers of Park’s ruling Saenuri Party.

Park’s approval ratings have fallen from 51.1 percent on June 11, a day after Moon’s nomination, to as low as 42.7 percent on Tuesday, according to polling agency Realmeter.

The president’s move might also be a way to buy time to assess the public’s opinion of the 66-year-old candidate, who will replace outgoing Prime Minister Chung Hong-won. Chung resigned to assume responsibility for the Sewol ferry accident on April 16.

Moon was Park’s second choice for the post. Her first pick, Ahn Dae-hee, abandoned his nomination after the media and opposition politicians accused him of making 1.6 billion won ($1.5 million) in just five months of practicing law after retiring from the Supreme Court in July 2012.

The Blue House said it postponed the initial submission of the motion for Moon’s appointment last Friday to Monday because it didn’t have all the documents it needed. On Sunday, the Blue House said the president would push the date to Tuesday so the documents could be completed. On Tuesday, the presidential office said Park was too busy to sign the motion during her trip to Central Asia.

Moon has presented a robust self-defense of his past and hasn’t appeared to consider abandoning the nomination. The former editor in chief of the JoongAng Ilbo, where he worked for 37 years before retiring at the end of 2012, has been embroiled in controversy over a number of comments he made and columns he wrote while at the newspaper and at a church he attended. Moon’s most contentious comments were made in a church, where he stated that Japan’s colonization of Korea and the division of the Korean Peninsula were all part of God’s plan for the Koreans.

When asked by reporters about Moon after a general meeting of party lawmakers yesterday morning, Saenuri’s floor leader Lee Wan-koo said, “We will try to make a grave decision after taking appropriate procedures, listening to each and every lawmaker and studying public opinion.”

“The Blue House probably hopes Moon will volunteer [to drop out],” said a political analyst on the condition of anonymity. “But Moon’s pride seems to make it difficult for him to reach that decision.”

The NPAD’s senior lawmaker, Park Jie-won, who has a bitter personal history with Moon from when the nominee was a journalist on the political desk, said, “I interpret the delay of the motion as a sign that President Park is giving up on Moon.”

BY SEO JI-EUN [spring@joongang.co.kr]





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