Behind closed doors

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Behind closed doors

 The National Assembly is considering conducting ethical screening of nominees for high government posts behind closed doors, while making public its screening of their qualifications as policy executioner. Despite a denial by the opposition People Power Party’s (PPP) floor leader Joo Ho-young, he and his counterpart Kim Tae-nyeon from the ruling Democratic Party (DP) reportedly agreed to set up a committee to improve our current confirmation hearings.

It is regrettable that our confirmation hearings mostly focused on attacking nominees’ personalities in the past. Nevertheless, they offered a precious opportunity for legislators to check nominees’ morality and work ethics. Most of all, those hearings served as an effective tool for our legislators to prevent a president from appointing unqualified candidates.

We saw their effectiveness during confirmation hearings for Justice Minister nominee Cho Kuk. If lawmakers had not dug up a plethora of suspicions over his daughter’s dubious admission to college and his wife’s involvement in a suspicious private equity fund, such a shadowed past may never have come to light. If lawmakers conduct inquiries about nominees’ morality behind closed doors, how can the people learn the truth?

Since their introduction in 2000, confirmation hearings have played a positive role in raising ethical standards for public office seekers by filtering out many nominees with skeletons in their closets. As a result, candidates for high government positions are being required to maintain high moral standards.

The DP has proposed ethical screenings behind closed doors after the Cho Kuk scandal. We cannot but assume a political motive. The Citizen’s Coalition for Economic Justice, a progressive civic group, attacked the DP for trying to “avoid moral screening of nominees” to help the president appoint senior government officials more easily than before.

The DP came up with the idea following Moon’s complaint about “difficulties with recruiting high-level officials because of their reluctance to appear at confirmation hearings.” His remarks do not make sense. The government’s many botched attempts at recruitment resulted from its relying on a small pool of talent, not from confirmation hearings.

If a National Assembly led by a ruling party with a supermajority examines nominees’ morality behind closed doors, it will end up a mess. If Moon can appoint anyone he wants, it is not democracy. The legislature must abandon this undemocratic method of recruitment.

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