FTC head takes office despite opposition

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FTC head takes office despite opposition


Kim Sang-jo

President Moon Jae-in bypassed lawmakers on Tuesday and confirmed Kim Sang-jo, a longtime critic of Korea’s powerful conglomerates, to head the country’s Fair Trade Commission. The executive action is likely to exacerbate a conflict with opposition parties, which have been holding up the confirmation of Moon’s other nominees in the legislature.

“Discussions are not going well in the National Assembly, and time is passing continuously, which is a very sad thing,” Yoon Young-chan, a spokesman for the Blue House, said Tuesday. “The people’s lives are threatened due to serious economic problems, and we can’t waste the golden time to build orders in the fair economic democracy under fair competition. For this reason, the president has appointed the nominee Kim to head the Fair Trade Commission.”

Yoon said the administration had asked the National Assembly to confirm Kim by Monday, but lawmakers were unable to come to an agreement. However, the position of fair trade commissioner does not legally require a confirmation, and the president can install an appointee at will.

The presidential spokesman said Kim has proven his ability to solve social inequality and polarization by establishing fair economic rules.

“A public official’s morality shines through the roads he has walked and his reputation among people,” Yoon said. “Many people, including small-business owners, intellectuals and economists, have asked for passing his nomination by testifying how moral and humble his life is.”

Opposition parties had raised issue with Kim’s wife, who was allegedly hired as an English teacher at a public school even though her qualifications failed to meet required criteria. Lawmakers also questioned his alleged use of a fake residential address, supposed special treatment given to his son during his compulsory military service and allegations that Kim plagiarized some of his work in the past.

Yoon argued that various opinion polls had shown many people believed Kim to be the right person to lead the Fair Trade Commission. “I dare to say he has been confirmed by the people who think highly of his ability to push through with policies,” Yoon said, “instead of his problems.”

The spokesman pointed out there has been delays in filling up key posts in government and that the Blue House can longer accept postponing appointments.

“There were a few people who proposed the idea of accepting the opposition parties’ requests in order to be cooperative,” Yoon said. “We will continue to proceed with our principle of cooperating with opposition parties by treating them as our partners.”

The president’s move to push through Kim’s confirmation without legislative approval could have a negative impact on the administration’s effort to pass a supplementary budget for this year and the appointment of other key officials.

The Blue House plans to once again ask the National Assembly to confirm Kang Kyung-wha, the controversial nominee for foreign affairs minister, by Friday if they fail to do so by Wednesday.

President Moon is planning to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump later this month, and the Blue House could put Kang in the foreign minister role without the National Assembly’s approval.

BY KIM YOUNG-NAM [kim.youngnam@joongang.co.kr]
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