Unwise appointmentsPresident Moon Jae-in has so far pressed ahead with the appointments of 29 public office candidates without consent from the opposition. Before the April 7 parliamentary elections last year, he appointed some of them as government ministers even without adopting the required report on their approval after confirmation hearings. After the ruling Democratic Party’s landslide victory in the last election, the president appointed the rest of them after bypassing the opposition People Power Party (PPP). If this is the way things are done, why are confirmation hearings even bothered with?
Moon is at a crossroads ahead of his imminent decision on appointing five cabinet members. They include Science and ICT Minister nominee Lim Hye-sook, Oceans and Fisheries Minister nominee Park Jun-young and Land Minister nominee Noh Hyeong-ouk.
But those three nominees had many problems exposed during their confirmation hearings. Lim, a professor at Ewha Womans’ University, is suspected of having plagiarized one of her student’s master’s thesis, gone on a family trip overseas on a government-funded program, and had membership of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) before serving as chairwoman of the National Research Council of Science and Technology (NST), a body overseeing 25 state-funded research institutions in Korea, despite strict requirements for political neutrality. Her apology cannot justify her appointment as head of the Ministry of Science and ICT.
Oceans Minister nominee Park’s wife’s involvement in allegedly smuggling in expensive European china and selling it on Facebook was shocking. Noh, the Land Minster nominee, raked in a huge profit on a dubious real estate deal.
The PPP decided to not approve their appointments and the minor opposition Justice Party agreed. But the opposition has approved the appointments of the remaining two nominees to head the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and the Ministry of Employment and Labor.
The DP was busy defending the three controversial nominees during and after their confirmation hearings. A DP spokesman brushed off their blemished records as “no big deal” and the Blue House said no new suspicions arose. We are dumbfounded at their loose standards for appointments to the cabinet.
The Blue House can appoint government ministers as it wants. But it should not forget the reason for the DP’s crushing defeats in the April 7 mayoral by-elections. The voters warned against the Blue House’s overbearing governance style. That’s why Moon promised to administer the country “more humbly” and new DP Chairman Song Young-gil vowed to match words with actions rather than blaming others. If they push these appointments, they will be going against public sentiment.
Following a confirmation hearing for Prime Minister nominee Kim Boo-kyum, another hearing for Prosecutor General nominee Kim Oh-soo will be held. The prime minister nominee must go through a full vote in the National Assembly. If the DP insists on the president’s cabinet appointments, the PPP will turn away. We hope the president and DP make some wise decisions before it’s too late.