Hwang grilled during hearing

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Hwang grilled during hearing


Hwang Woo-yea, the nominee for education minister and deputy prime minister for education, culture and society, answers questions yesterday at a confirmation hearing at the National Assembly. By Oh Jong-taek

The nominee for minister of education yesterday came under questioning at a confirmation hearing, expressing his position on a number of sticky points, including controversial historical events and education policies.

Hwang Woo-yea, a five-term lawmaker in the Saenuri Party, who will double as deputy prime minister for education, social and cultural affairs, was appointed last month after the previous nominee, Kim Myung-soo, failed to pass his confirmation hearing over plagiarism allegations.

This time, members from the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) aimed their political fire power at suspicious events and Hwang’s views on history.

NPAD lawmaker Bae Jae-jeung accused the nominee of receiving property in exchange for legal counseling in a 2004 case, in which he was not listed as an attorney.

Before he became a lawmaker, Hwang’s career was concentrated in the legal field. He previously served as a judge at the Seoul High Court from 1974 until 1985. He subsequently worked as a judge at the Jeju and Chuncheon district courts until 1989. Hwang became a lawmaker in 1996.

In regard to the 2004 case, he explained that one can be involved in a case even if a legal professional’s name is not listed on the files.

He also expressed his regret over a ruling he handed down in the 1980s on 25 activists accused of forming an anti-state organization.

In 1981, 25 people were arrested on charges that they set up a socialist society to overthrow the country in violation of the National Security Law - an accusation that is often used by authoritarian governments to suppress political dissenters or pro-democracy activists.

“I feel sorry for all those involved in the case,” he said.

Hwang was also accused of taking an overseas trip sponsored by National Intelligence Service (NIS) that was not directly linked to his duties.

In response, the education nominee said that he only used a portion of public funds when visiting the intelligence agencies, while returning the remainder to the NIS.

Opposition members also asked about his views on the military coup staged by President Park Geun-hye’s father, the late strongman Park Chung Hee, on May 16, 1961.

When asked to define the event, Hwang called it “a military coup, as defined by many texts.”

Still, he mentioned what he considers a positive consequence.

“But, we need to keep in mind that, because of this event, we could foster the foundation for industrialization. It served as the basis for development,” Hwang said.

In the wake of the Sewol ferry disaster, he was also asked to categorize the disaster. The question was intended to determine if Hwang considered the tragedy more of an accident or a man-made disaster.

“In broader terms, it can be categorized as a kind of car accident,” he answered. “Still, the event has more meaning and implications beyond a single car accident.”

In regard to follow-up measures for the disaster, Hwang said he would incorporate safety education into courses so that students could be prepared for any accident.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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