Democrats urge cabinet approvals

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Democrats urge cabinet approvals

The presidential office and the ruling Democratic Party swung into action over the weekend, persuading opposition parties to approve the nominations of three cabinet members embroiled in a controversy over fake residential addresses.

Jun Byung-hun, senior presidential secretary for political affairs; Jin Seong-jun, a presidential secretary for political planning and other aides mobilized over the weekend to talk the opposition parties into helping the three cabinet nominees pass their confirmation hearings despite an ongoing controversy over them falsifying their residential addresses on documents. They called chairmen and floor leaders of the opposition parties asking for their cooperation on Sunday.

Woo Won-sik, floor leader of the DP, also appealed to the opposition parties for their cooperation in forming a new cabinet during a press briefing on Sunday.

“The time has come for us to produce productive and common-sense vetting process [for cabinet nominees],” said the floor leader, adding that while the confirmation hearing process that has been in place since 2000 has produced positive outcomes, it also has been misused with political objectives to pry into personal lives.

He also noted the party had looked back on how it treated cabinet nominees in the past two conservative governments in retrospect, a remark clearly intended to sway the opposition to its side.

Prime Minister nominee Lee Nak-yon is in hot water following the revelation that his wife, then a high school teacher, faked her address in 1989 to be assigned to a school district of Gangnam of her preference. While the nominee bowed his head before lawmakers during his hearing in apology, it wasn’t enough to persuade opposition parties to publish a report on the outcome of the hearing on Friday, one of the parliamentary procedures required for parliamentary approval of his nomination. A parliamentary vote on Lee’s nomination was initially scheduled for today but with the opposition’s refusal on the report Friday, a confirmation on Lee as prime minister is up in the air.

The controversy over fake residential addresses also spilled over to Kang Kyung-wha, tapped to lead the Foreign Ministry and who will be the first female foreign minister if confirmed. She falsified her address to send her daughter to a high school of her choice.

Kim Sang-jo, chairman nominee for the Fair Trade Commission, is also criticized for using a fake addresses.

The ruling party and the presidential office have been trying to point out that none of the three falsified their addresses to gain from real estate speculation, for which faking a residential address is a common practice. But they are facing an uphill battle as the nominations contradict President Moon Jae-in’s campaign pledge.

While on the trail, Moon named five types of corruption that he will not allow when making appointments for senior posts in his government. Candidates with a record of draft-dodging, real estate speculation, tax evasion, fake address registration or plagiarism will not be selected, Moon said.

Adding to troubles for foreign minister-nominee Kang, the major opposition Liberty Korea Party said Saturday that Kang’s two daughters paid an inheritance tax, 2.32 million won ($2,073) each, on Tuesday, two days after Kang was appointed by Moon. Calling it a case of “tax evasion, the Liberty Korea Party said they paid their taxes two days before only because Kang was named a high-ranking government official. “It could be a huge problem if a person has a mindset that he or she will be fine evading tax if they are not senior government officials,” said Jeong Jun-guil, LKP spokesman.

The Blue House appears to acknowledge the shortcoming of its vetting process despite Moon’s five-point principles. “It takes time to gather all relevant documents as it requires consent and information-gathering from relevant government bodies for the Blue House to compile them all,” a senior Blue House official told the JoongAng Ilbo, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Because we deal with a vast number of people being vetted, I hope people understand we might fall short of (our own standard).”

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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