Moon urges Assembly to pass cabinet nominees despite dubious ethics
President Moon Jae-on in Tuesday demanded the National Assembly conclude confirmation hearings of his three cabinet nominees, taking the first step to appoint the trio despite growing resistance over their ethical lapses.
Moon requested the National Assembly to send confirmation hearing reports on three minister nominees by Friday, presidential spokesperson Park Kyung-mee said.
Moon's three chosen individuals are science minister-nominee Lim Hye-sook, oceans minister-nominee Park Jun-young and land minister-nominee Noh Hyeong-ouk.
Moon reshuffled his cabinet in April, nominating a prime minister and five other ministers. While the National Assembly wrapped up confirmation hearings last week, only two minister nominees received bipartisan support.
The opposition parties said they do not approve of the remaining nominees because they are ethically unfit. Some members of the ruling Democratic Party (DP), including five-term Rep. Lee Sang-min, also said Moon must withdraw the nominations.
Science minister-nominee Lim faced a barrage of questions on her integrity and ethics, related to suspected academic fraud, manipulating a real estate property contract and taking her children on business trips.
Oceans and fisheries minister-nominee Park was criticized for his wife’s business activities, which allegedly involved smuggling large quantities of ceramics into Korea from overseas, evading duties.
The main opposition People Power Party (PPP) in particular opposed Noh's nomination, saying he was unfit to be land minister because of his past real estate dealings in which he abused the system while serving as a civil servant to make money on real estate.
While the president requires the legislature’s approval to appoint the prime minister, he does not need one to appoint a cabinet minister. Since taking office in May 2019, Moon has appointed 29 minister-level officials without the opposition parties’ blessings.
Moon already hinted that he will push forward with his cabinet picks. “I don't think the Blue House vetting process was a failure just because opposition politicians protested my nominees," he said during a special press conference on Monday to mark four years in office.
Moon also gave lengthy justifications for picking the three nominees, citing their professional qualifications, and claimed the opposition was just nitpicking.
He then proposed that the National Assembly change how it operates the confirmation hearings. He said the lawmakers must scrutinize a nominee’s professional abilities in a public session and discuss his or her ethical issues in a closed-door session. Currently, all sessions are made public.
Moon’s attitude quickly stirred up criticism.
“Moon said it is unfair that a nominee was embarrassed at a confirmation hearing. I wonder why he had attacked nominees at confirmation hearings when he was an opposition lawmaker,” Rep. Bae June-young of the PPP said. “I have to ask him why he had done nothing until now to improve the system.”
BY SER MYO-JA [firstname.lastname@example.org]