Second cabinet nominee accused of pulling strings for clan
As confirmation hearings for President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol's Cabinet kicked off Monday, education minister nominee Kim In-chul faced heat from inside his own party for his many relatives who got scholarships from the Fulbright Commission, which he had close ties to.
Rep. Kim Yong-tae and Rep. Ha Tae-kyung of Yoon’s People Power Party (PPP), who earlier called for health minister nominee Chung Ho-young to give up the post also for alleged favoritism, made the same demand of Kim In-chul Monday.
Kim was a Fulbright scholar himself from 1996 to 1997, and three members of his family — his wife, daughter and son — also landed Fulbright scholarships. Kim was president of the Fulbright Korea alumni association and served as an auditor for the Korea Fulbright Foundation twice — once in 2011 and from 2014 to 2018. His children's scholarship coincided with the period in which he was in those positions.
Outrage is rising over the nepotism or favorable treatment afforded scions of the well connected, known colloquially as the "appa (daddy) chance," or getting ahead thanks to parents who can pull strings.
“There seems to be a question about whether Kim is appropriate as a minister nominee,” Rep. Kim, a PPP supreme council member, said of the education minister nominee in a CBS radio interview on Monday. “Some think it was fair for Kim's family to receive the Fulbright scholarships, but some people may have missed opportunities for the scholarships [as a result].
"Kim and his family may argue that the screening process was appropriate, but I have compared this issue to Moon Joon-yong, [the son] of President Moon Jae-in,” Kim continued. The president's son was embroiled in controversy after he received a Covid-19 relief grant for artists. "Is it common sense and fair for a son to apply for government grants when his father is the chief of state? [...] The Fulbright scholarships are an extension [of the same issue]."
Asked if there are other nominees who have similar skeletons in their closets, Kim responded, “I think the most important issue is the suspicion of conflict of interest. Many people in their 20s and 30s are focused on that now.”
Rep. Ha also pointed out that an entire family getting the same scholarship would sound extreme to most people.
"Even if they were qualified, it is perceived to be too much and think [Kim] has lived pursuing his own interests,” Rep. Ha said in an MBC radio interview.
"I believe [Kim] should reflect on himself and ask if he is qualified for a public position," Ha added.
In another MBC radio interview on April 18, Rep. Ha said health minister nominee Chung really should resign. "There may be no legal problems or it may be unfair to Chung, but it's right to voluntarily resign."
A confirmation hearing for Chung is scheduled for Tuesday, and a hearing for Kim will be held Friday.
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