Wrong nomination againPresident Moon Jae-in’s cabinet appointments are heading to the finish line. But his recent nomination of Prof. Hong Jong-hak as head of the newly created Ministry of SMEs and Start-Ups is questionable given the way the nominee has reacted to criticisms for his suspicious accumulation of wealth.
Despite his past attacks on inheritance of wealth, the sum of his family’s wealth more than doubled to 5.5 billion won ($4.86 million) this year from 2.1 billion in 2012, which he reported to the authorities when he became a lawmaker that year. Hong attributed the dramatic increase to his inheritance of an upscale apartment in Gangnam and a commercial building from his mother-in-law. Hong is even under the suspicion that he sought tax evasion for the apartment by splitting the share of the apartment among his wife and 13-year-old daughter.
Hong has repeatedly condemned “hefty inheritance and donations” as it hurts ordinary citizens. We wonder how he could explain his contradictory behavior. What really baffles us is his excuse that he did nothing wrong legally as he paid his due tax for the inheritance. Can the public accept his self-excuse as an economist, social activist and politician?
In a scholarly paper published in 2000, he compared big companies to cancer cells, and in another paper in 2008, he wrote that President Park Chung Hee’s policies were similar to Nazism. That’s not all. As a professor of economics at Gachon University, he published a book in which he urged high school students to go to Seoul National University no matter what. We wonder if a nominee with such misleading views — academically and socially — can serve as head of the new ministry so boisterously created by the Moon administration to cope with the tough challenges of the fourth industrial revolution.
A bigger problem is the Blue House’ laid-back attitudes. Over seven nominees for ministerial- and vice ministerial-level officials already dropped out. The government picked Hong among over 20 candidates after “a thorough screening process for 38 days” after an earlier nominee resigned over controversies over his views on history. Nevertheless, the presidential office was not able to sort out his flaws.
The appointment loopholes in the Blue House still remain intact. This certainly results from President Moon’ blind adherence to his nominees’ ideological backgrounds.
The presidential office must return to the basic principle of appointments: competence and transparency. If not, the liberal government’s approval rating will continue to fall.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 30, Page 34