Appointment with arroganceOceans and Fisheries Minister nominee Park Jun-young voluntarily withdrew his name for consideration Thursday over public criticism of his wife’s smuggling of expensive china when he returned home after finishing work at the Korean embassy in London. Park admitted that he could not meet the standards required of high-level government officials. He also said he did not want to give any unnecessary trouble to President Moon Jae-in.
After confirmation hearings for five nominees for cabinet positions on May 4, the opposition People Power Party demanded Moon withdraw three of them — including Park, Science and ICT Minister nominee Lim Hye-sook and Land Minister nominee Noh Hyeong-ouk — and branded them unqualified for the posts. After the National Assembly failed to adopt the required report for the three nominees by the deadline on May 10, Moon extended it by Friday. Some members of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) opposed their appointments as well. On Wednesday, a group of first-term lawmakers from the DP asked its new leadership to relay their opposition to the Blue House.
Park’s capitulation reflects increasing opposition within the DP. Hostile public opinion — 57.5 percent against the appointments — also influenced Park’s decision. Given a first meeting between the new party leaders and the president in the Blue House scheduled for Friday, the Blue House may have tried to fix the situation as early as possible.
Park’s decision could be explained by the Blue House’s paying attention, however reluctantly, to public opinion. The problem is the president’s intention to carry on with his other appointments by sacrificing Park. In a special address on Monday to mark his fourth year in office, Moon brushed off controversy over his appointments as no big deal. The appointments did not signify the Blue House’s failure to screen them properly, he said.
It seems that Moon is determined to push his appointment of Science and ICT minister nominee Lim Hye-sook. The public is less than impressed. In the eyes of ordinary citizens, Lim’s ethical lapses are more serious than Park’s. They include academic plagiarism, listing her husband’s name on an academic paper and traveling overseas with her children on state-funded projects. People are asking why she is okay while Park is not. DP insiders believe that’s because Lim is a woman. Moon pledged to fill 30 percent of ministerial positions with women. Even if Lim is appointed, the percentage is only 22.
If Moon presses ahead with the appointments of Lim and Noh, they will be his 30th and 31st appointments of nominees without consent from the opposition. We understand Moon’s need to run the nation. But Moon’s attitude is nothing but the “politics of arrogance.”