Useless confirmation hearingThe confirmation hearing on Justice Minister nominee Park Beom-kye proved to be another pointless procedure. A three-term lawmaker from the ruling Democratic Party (DP) cannot be fit for the job required of political neutrality. He is a witness to the trial on the breach of the National Assembly Act that strictly bans any use of physical force and violence to disrupt legislative activities. He is also suspected of under reporting his wealth and foul property trade, assaulting a student, and is mired in a lawsuit over illegal fundraising. The list backing how unqualified he is for the job has been building up. But the hearing fell short of screening his ethical standards effectively.
As no witness will appear in the hearing, the opposition People Power Party (PPP) held a separate hearing the previous day because the DP rejected all the witnesses the PPP had listed. The requested documents also did not come forward, resulting in a hearing without any substance. Nominees for senior government posts choose to buy time by refusing to answer allegations. Hearings on former Justice Ministers Choo Mi-ae and Cho Kuk went through the same pattern.
Witnesses to the case on the Blue House’s alleged meddling in the Ulsan mayoral election were rejected by DP on grounds of “political offensive.”
A confirmation hearing plays a key legislative role in keeping checks on the administration. Disregard of the process can undermine the basis for democracy that runs on separation of the three branches. But the hearing process has been worthless, and the president used his executive power to press on with his appointments even without legislative endorsement. The confirmation hearing system has been in place for more than 20 years, but it hardly served its purpose of filtering out unqualified candidates for ministerial posts.
It was the liberal President Roh Moo-hyun who enforced confirmation hearings on all ministerial posts. But under President Moon Jae-in, as many as 30 have been appointed regardless of legislative disapprovals of nominees. Although the Moon administration prides itself as an extension of the Roh administration, it has disavowed the confirmation hearing legacy. Efficacy of the hearing process should be enhanced and the president must respect the results. Instead of struggling to find a candidate who can avoid clash and dispute, bipartisan efforts must be made to improve the hearing system.