New candidates, same old storyConfirmation hearings at the National Assembly often turn into a venue for public disappointment and frustration. The latest round is no exception. It has once again laid bare the ethical infractions of the nominees. We are dumbfounded by the never-ending stories of malfeasance at the hearings.
During his presidential campaign last year, Moon Jae-in promised not to nominate anyone to top posts in his administration if they were involved in any of five forms of corruption: draft dodging, tax evasion, real estate and stock speculation, fabrication of documents to live in a neighborhood with good schools, and plagiarism. But it didn’t take long for him to break his promise. As it turned out, many of his nominees have practiced corruption one way or another before.
As a result, the Blue House has tightened the standards by adding two more offenses: drunken driving and sexual misconduct. But at the same time, the presidential office has eased up some of the other criteria, such as manipulating residential documents for better schools. Now, if any nominees violate this rule more than twice, they cannot be picked for public posts.
Yet nominees cannot even meet these lowered standards. Lee Eun-ae and Kim Ki-young, two lawyers tapped to be Constitutional Court justices, are suspected of having changed the address of their homes to get their children into better schools as many as seven and three times, respectively. Lee Suk-tae, another Constitutional Court justice nominee, faces allegations of underreporting a real estate transaction to avoid taxes. As guardians of the law, they can hardly be pardoned by the public.
Nominees for minister are no exception, either. Rep. Yoo Eun-hye, a nominee for education minister, is under public scrutiny for her daughter’s fake residential documents that helped her get into better schools and her son’s draft dodging. Lee Jae-kap, a nominee for employment and labor minister, is also suspected of trading non-listed stocks and faking his address.
The personnel affairs team at the Blue House must have been aware of these malpractices. Nomination hearings are meant to scrutinize candidates’ competence and morality for public office. But such farcical episodes are recurring over and over since the hearings were introduced two decades ago. The hearings must get to the bottom of people’s suspicions. If they are proven true, the Blue House must admit its mistakes and immediately withdraw the nominations. Otherwise, the Moon administration will suffer irrevocable damage to its integrity.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 11, Page 30