What’s the point?

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What’s the point?

Confirmation hearings for seven nominees to head ministries for the Moon Jae-in administration ended Thursday. Despite Moon’s bid for a major reshuffle, various types of inappropriate histories and wealth accumulation surfaced in the course of the four-day legislative screening session at the National Assembly. The public is disappointed at the level of lax ethics among the seven nominees and wonders why we can’t do better.

We are dumbfounded at the outrageous remarks by controversial Unification Minister nominee Kim Yeon-chul, who called the 2008 murder of a South Korean tourist on Mount Kumgang by a North Korean guard a “rite of passage” for the reunification of this divided land. He ridiculed former leaders of the Democratic Party Rep. Choo mi-ae and Kim Jong-in as a “zombie” and “chewing gum spitted out,” respectively. That’s not all. He branded the May 24, 2010, sanctions imposed on North Korea by the conservative Lee Myung-bak administration “stupid sanctions.” Such subpar remarks only deepen suspicions about his qualification as the head of the important ministry.

Choi Jeong-ho, President Moon’s pick to head the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, wasn’t much better. He was found to have raked in a whopping 2.3 billion won ($2 million) in profits from suspicious real estate deals. He could be called an expert in property deals, but can hardly be surprised at doubts about his ability to draw up effective real estate policies in sync with the administration’s desire to cool down the market and crack down on speculation.

Other nominees had similar flaws, including draft dodging, tax evasion, illegal wealth accumulation, faking residential documents either for better schools or profit-seeking, and plagiarism. We cannot but wonder why Cho Kuk — the controversial senior presidential secretary for civil affairs — recommended these people to the president. His incompetence as a gate keeper is unprecedented in the Blue House.

The nominees kept repeating, “I am sorry” whenever dirt from their pasts was uncovered. They knew that their nominations would go smoothly despite ferocious attacks from opposition lawmakers. The president will press ahead with his appointments anyway — Moon did it seven times.

After the confirmation hearings, people think they are useless. The Blue House must look squarely at such criticism. The public believes it doesn’t take the hearings seriously knowing its nominees can still be seated: Moon must listen to that.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 29, Page 30
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