Fake address becomes a hurdle in confirmation hearings

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Fake address becomes a hurdle in confirmation hearings

Following President Moon Jae-in’s appointment of Kang Kyung-wha as his first foreign minister, the Blue House made a rare move by revealing that its vetting process discovered possible problems in her past but that she was still chosen for her abilities.

According to the Blue House, Kang’s daughter is a U.S. citizen, but has promised to obtain Korean citizenship. Kang also has an issue of using a fake address for the daughter’s high school admission, it said.

Registering a false address has frequently stopped many nominees from taking top government posts. The practice of registering a false address is a crime in Korea. It is punishable by up to three years in prison or a fine of up to 10 million won ($8,898) under the Resident Registration Act.

During his presidential campaign, Moon named five types of corruption that he will not allow when making appointments for senior posts in his government. Any candidate with a record of draft-dodging, real estate speculation, tax evasion, fake address registration or plagiarism will not be selected, Moon promised.

Concerns were raised that Moon broke the promise and that a tough road is ahead of Kang when she will be scrutinized in the National Assembly’s confirmation hearing.

The country introduced the confirmation hearing system for a prime-minister nominee in 2000. The issue of fake address registration was already raised for Lee Han-dong, the first nominee who went through the process. The legislature still confirmed him despite the controversy.

Two years later, the National Assembly refused to confirm Chang Sang, nominated by then President Kim Dae-jung to become the country’s first woman prime minister, over a controversy surrounding fake address registration. Kim’s next nominee, Chang Dae-hwan, faced the same problem and the legislature rejected him. Chang Sang’s use of a fake address was linked to real estate dealings, while Chang Dae-hwan’s registration of a false address was in order to send his children to a better school.

After several revisions, confirmation hearings became mandatory for cabinet ministers as well as members of the Board of Audit and Inspection, the Supreme Court chief justice and justices and Constitutional Court chief justice, among others. Heads of the prosecution, National Intelligence Service and the National Police Agency were also required to undergo confirmation hearings.

While fake address registration was criticized during the Roh Moo-hyun presidency, they became a serious issue when President Lee Myung-bak formed his first cabinet in 2008. About 20 nominees went through confirmation hearings at once, and many of them were found to have used fake addresses. “Registering a fake address is a prerequisite to be appointed to a senior post in the Lee administration,” Rep. Jung Jang-sun of the Democratic Party said in 2010.

In 2010, Lee’s nominee for culture, sports and tourism minister, Shin Jae-min, failed to be confirmed as it was discovered that he had five separate fake addresses.

The situation was not much different during the presidency of Park Geun-hye, Moon’s predecessor. The National Assembly held confirmation hearings in March 2015 for her cabinet reshuffle and four nominees were found to have used fake addresses. They were still appointed.

The political parties are split over Kang. “She reportedly used a relative’s address to transfer her children to schools in Korea in the middle of their relocation from another country,” said Rep. Roh Hoe-chan, floor leader of the Justice Party. “We need to investigate it further, but I think it was a little different.”

The Liberty Korea Party, which played the role of protecting the nominees of the conservative presidents for the past nine years against liberal opposition lawmakers’ attacks, vowed to go after her.

BY AN HYO-SEONG, SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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