Startups Ministry nominee refuses to withdraw

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Startups Ministry nominee refuses to withdraw


Park Seong-jin, the nominee to lead the newly created Ministry of SMEs and Startups, bows his head during a press briefing on Thursday at the headquarters of the Korea Federation of SMEs in Seoul. Facing strong backlash over his qualifications and beliefs, Park refused to give up his nomination. [YONHAP]

Park Seong-jin, the nominee to head the newly created Ministry of SMEs and Startups, refused to withdraw his nomination on Thursday amid questions over whether he was fit to serve in the role as his views on history and his religious activities have been scrutinized in recent days.

“My philosophy [on SMEs] does not differ from that of the Moon Jae-in government,” Park said during a press briefing at the Korea Federation of SMEs in Seoul. “I have no intention to resign. Although I have shortcomings, there are ways for me to contribute to the country.”

Park, a mechanical engineering professor at the Pohang University of Science and Technology, was nominated by President Moon Jae-in on Aug. 24 to lead the new ministry tasked with supporting small and medium-sized businesses and start-ups.

But he soon faced backlash after his past columns on history and his activities as a board member of the Korea Association of Creation Research were reported, raising questions over his qualifications to be the top official in charge of government policy on small businesses and start-ups.

One of the controversies over his historical views is a column he wrote for a local paper in which he said South Korea was founded in 1947 instead of 1919, which the Moon government believes is the year the country was founded.

The year 1919 was when the Korean provincial government was set up by independence activists in Shanghai when the country was under Japanese colonial rule.

Park acknowledged the he identified 1947 as the year the country was founded in his column but was quick to add that he had not been aware of the difference between the foundation in 1919 and the establishment of the South Korean government in 1947.

“This episode stemmed from my ignorance of history,” Park said, adding that he respects the Constitution, which stipulates that the Korean government respects and upholds the legal legitimacy of the Shanghai-based provincial government.

Another controversy he faces is his activity in the Korea Association of Creation Research, which denies the scientific theory of evolution but bases their academic position on the Bible.

At the briefing, Park said his religion was not subject to the vetting process and that he had developed his Christian faith in his third year of college. He explained that his Christian faith played a pivotal role in shaping his ideology.

While Park made clear his intention to weather the storm of criticism and go through a parliamentary hearing for confirmation, it is still possible for him to walk away as Park Ky-young, former head of the Science, Technology and Innovation Office, did just four days after beginning work, succumbing to backlash over her involvement in Korea’s largest scientific fraud case, the infamous Hwang Woo-suk scandal of 2005.

Like Park Seong-jin, Park Ky-young rejected calls for her resignation during a press conference on Aug. 10. But a day later, she resigned.

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