Hearings for eight Cabinet nominees set for this week

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Hearings for eight Cabinet nominees set for this week

Confirmation hearings for the eight nominees to Park Geun-hye’s reshuffled Cabinet kick off this week, with the main opposition party vowing to aggressively question candidates and weed out at least two.

The confirmation hearings for Lee Byung-ki, nominated for chief of the National Intelligence Service and Choi Yang-hee, tapped as new minister of science, ICT and future planning, are scheduled for today, where they will be questioned by ruling and opposition lawmakers for their qualifications. Lee, the Korean ambassador to Japan, in particular, has come under fire over accusations that he assembled a slush fund for the Grand National Party, the predecessor of the ruling Saenuri Party, during the 2002 presidential election.

Hearings are planned tomorrow for Choi Kyung-hwan, nominated to fill the dual role of deputy prime minister for the economy and minister of strategy and finance, and three others: home affairs minister nominee Chong Jong-sup, labor minister nominee Lee Ki-kweon and gender equality and family minister nominee Kim Hee-jung, the youngest and only female in the group.

On Wednesday, the confirmation hearing for Kim Myung-soo, nominated to be education minister, will be held. Since he was tapped for the role, the professor has faced a snowballing series of plagiarism accusations. If approved, Kim will also fill the newly established position of deputy prime minister for education, society and culture. Kim, a professor at Korea National University of Education and the president of the Korean Educational Research Association, was accused last month by opposition lawmakers of plagiarizing four of his theses for a professorial promotion at Korea National University of Education. He stands accused of having directly copied portions of his students’ dissertations without giving proper citations.

The hearing for Chung Sung-keun, who was tapped as culture, sports and tourism minister designate, will be the last and is scheduled on Thursday.

The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) said it plans to challenge the qualifications of National Intelligence Service chief nominee Lee Byung-ki and those of education minister nominee Kim. The party added that it will also evaluate the other candidates thoroughly.

“From the perspective of our party, based on some of our pre-investigations, there are quite a lot of people who evaluate highly the abilities of nominee Lee Byung-ki,” a key NPAD official told the JoongAng Ilbo via phone yesterday. “The biggest problem would be if Lee is rejected for one reason or another and President Park again nominates an uncompromising person with a military background.”

NPAD floor leader Park Young-sun added that, “Our party will evaluate [the candidates] thoroughly based on the people’s standards, not those of the Blue House.” She also pointed out that in the case of nominee Kim Myung-soo, “96 percent of the people responded [in a recent survey] that he is unsuitable to head the Ministry of Education. Such overwhelming opposition from the public is unprecedented.”

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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