What’s the difference?

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What’s the difference?

Controversies over the morality and qualifications of nominees for major posts in the incoming administration continue. Two outstanding cases are an alleged conflict of interest for Kim In-chul, nominee for education minister, and for Chung Ho-young, nominee for health and welfare minister. Despite President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol prioritizing the competence of candidates, the two nominees fell far short of the public’s expectations for top government officials in terms of ethics above all.

The controversy over Kim involves the appropriateness of Fulbright scholarships offered to members of his family. After receiving the scholarship from the Fulbright program managed by the Korean-American Educational Commission, Kim — a former president of the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies — and his wife went to U.S. universities as visiting professors in 1996 and 2004, respectively. Kim served as president of the Fulbright alumni association and as an auditor at the commission, and his daughter received a scholarship from the program in 2014 and his son in 2016.

Kim claimed that recipients of the scholarship are chosen without any outside pressure. But it can hardly dispel deepening public suspicion, as many ex-presidents of the Fulbright alumni association serve as members of the commission. The scholarship program prioritizes students without experiences of living overseas, but Kim’s children studied in foreign countries. Given that other students lost out on the chance to get a scholarship, he cannot serve as education minister.

Chung is suspected of giving special treatment to his two children when they applied for admissions into Kyungpook National University Medical School after graduating from college. When Chung was a professor at the medical school, he had final authority to set questions and grading for the classes his daughter took. But he didn’t report it to school authorities.

Chung’s son received about 12 million won in national scholarship money while preparing for admission to medical school. After controversy arose over the son, who had been exempted from military service after failing to meet the requirements for conscription in a physical test at the hospital, Chung offered to have his son take a new test at a private hospital. But the public showed a cold reaction to his proposal.

The two nominees strongly defend against such allegations. Nevertheless, those allegations are too powerful for them to serve as education and health ministers. President-elect Yoon championed the value of fairness before and after the March 9 presidential election. If those claims prove true, what difference is there between the incoming and outgoing administrations? We hope the two nominees withdraw their candidacies as soon as possible.
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