Limits of Yoon’s nominationsFollowing his earlier nominations for major government posts, President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol nominated senior prosecutor Han Dong-hoon, a close ally, to head the Ministry of Justice. “Given his experience in top positions at the justice ministry and the prosecution, Han is most suitable for modernizing judicial administration,” said Yoon.
But the appointment is seen as a stern reaction to the ruling Democratic Party (DP)’s endeavor to strip the prosecution of its rights to investigate. The DP vehemently opposed the nomination. With many urgent issues, including an economic crisis, such a clash between outgoing and incoming powers is not desirable as it only helps make people’s lives harder.
Han’s nomination is not compatible with the president-elect’s intention to dismantle the office of the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs in the Blue House. In the past, the office handled screening top officials and inspecting them, but Yoon promised to transfer the function to the justice ministry and the police. Personnel affairs, including promotions, of prosecutors also will likely be dealt with by the justice ministry rather than going through consultations with the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, the justice ministry and prosecutor general as in the past. On Wednesday, Han said he will not command prosecutors over concrete cases, as seen in the Moon Jae-in administration. But if Han is seated as justice minister with more powers than ever before, Yoon can hardly avoid controversy.
Yoon’s preference for people with personal connections is nothing new. Lee Sang-min, the nominee for head of the Ministry of the Interior and Safety, graduated from the ChoongAm High school and the Seoul National University Law College. Chung Ho-young, the nominee to head the Ministry of Health and Welfare, has been a close friend of Yoon for 40 years. But his competence as chief of the ministry was not proven, not to mention suspicions over his children’s admissions into a medical school affiliated with the Kyungpook National University Hospital where he served as head.
That’s not all. Kwon Young-se, a fourth-term lawmaker and the nominee for unification minister, studied with Yoon to pass the bar exam in the 1980s. He is also one of the three confidantes of Yoon before and after the March 9 presidential election. The list of nominees for other key positions in the government is full of former economic bureaucrats, suggesting a critical lack of diversity in the new administration. Such lopsided nominations from a small pool of elites sound alarms.
Yoon said he made nominations based on ability without considering regional or gender balance. They are mostly men in their late 50s and 60s and came from South and North Gyeongsang provinces. Most of those nominees also served in the past conservative governments.