More than inappropriate
Interior Minister Chong Jong-sup, who offered to step down on Sunday, is rumored to be hoping to run in the upcoming parliamentary election in April.
Chong had to make a public apology due to his controversial toast for the ruling party’s victory in the upcoming election during a Saenuri Party banquet in August. He denied his comment was motivated by his own ambition to run for a legislative seat.
But announcing his resignation, Chong hinted he was running in the next election, saying he plans to do all he can for the government under President Park Geun-hye. It is a dismal thing to see a senior government official take his public statements so lightly.
The Interior Ministry is a powerful office with the National Police Service under its control and it plays an important role in ensuring order during the campaign season.
Chong was a scholar in the field of the constitution at the elite Seoul National University and he should know perfectly well the importance of political neutrality among public servants. We cannot expect neutrality from an office headed by someone who outright favors a certain party.
His comment crying out for the ruling party’s election victory was too serious to be considered a slip of the tongue, and yet he retained his seat with an unlikely excuse that he was not used to making drinking toasts. He got off with a verbal warning from the National Election Committee.
If Chong is really running in the general election, he clearly was insincere when he apologized. His comment could have been intended to win favor from ruling party leaders.
While Chong was in office, his hometown of Gyeongju in North Gyeongsang Province was granted a special subsidy tax benefit worth 9.8 billion won, the seventh largest among local governments. Chong is expected run in his hometown.
The opposition is accusing Chong of using his cabinet post to grant favors to the city. Without a government post, Chong is free to run in an election. But he should seriously ask himself if the move is right for a law scholar and former senior cabinet member.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 9, Page 34