Ruling party in stew over three cabinet nominees
First-term lawmakers from the ruling party demanded Wednesday that President Moon Jae-in give up at least one of three cabinet appointees accused of ethical lapses.
“We decided to ask our leadership to strongly advise the Blue House to withdraw at least one of the nominees,” said Rep. Ko Young-in, a leader of a first-term lawmakers group within the Democratic Party (DP). Ko made the remarks to reporters after first-term lawmakers held a meeting in the morning to discuss the fates of Moon’s recent cabinet picks.
Moon is at odds with the National Assembly over the fates of three cabinet nominees. Opposition parties, particularly the main opposition People Power Party (PPP), refused to endorse the trio because of alleged ethical lapses.
The three are science minister-nominee Lim Hye-sook, oceans minister-nominee Park Jun-young and land minister-nominee Noh Hyeong-ouk. After issuing a lengthy public defense of them at a press conference Monday, Moon asked the legislature Tuesday to conclude the confirmation process, fueling speculation that he will go ahead and appoint them without lawmakers’ blessing.
The first-term lawmakers did not say which of the three Moon should give up. “Some are demanding one particular nominee be dropped, others want Moon to give up two,” said Ko. “What we agreed is that one or more nominations should be withdrawn.”
Of the 174 lawmakers from the DP, 81 are in their first terms. About 40 attended the meeting.
Rep. Kim Young-bae, a first-term lawmaker and a member of the party's Supreme Council, also said during a Supreme Council meeting that nominees are not critically flawed, but Moon should give up one or more to appease the public and opposition.
Other lawmakers from the DP have spoken against the nominees. DP Chairman Song Young-gil had a meeting with second-term lawmakers on Tuesday and a fierce debate took place about what to do with the three nominees, participants told the JoongAng Ilbo.
“Lim is a woman so she needs to be protected, but we still need to make a decision,” Rep. Kim Byung-wook said during the meeting. “The party must make a decision separate from the president’s remarks from Monday.”
At a press conference marking four years in office on Monday, Moon adamantly defended his nominees and criticized the opposition for nitpicking. He also said he wants to keep science minister-nominee Lim for the sake of gender balance.
Chairman Song also told the second-term lawmakers on Tuesday that he will redefine the relationship between the party and the Blue House. “I will change the culture in which the Blue House freely controls ruling party lawmakers,” he said. “I will make sure that the party will play the central role for the next presidential campaign.”
The DP lawmakers’ protests came on the eve of Moon’s meeting with newly elected party leaders on Friday.
The Blue House said Wednesday that Moon will take into account the party’s opinions. “The president asked the National Assembly to conclude the confirmation hearings by Friday,” a senior presidential source said Wednesday. “Until then, he will listen to various opinions through various channels.”
Another presidential aide said it is premature to conclude that Moon will appoint the ministers without the National Assembly’s blessings. The source also denied that the Blue House and the ruling party are in conflict.
BY SER MYO-JA [email@example.com]