Yoon Suk-yeol's education minister nominee flames out
Kim In-chul walked away from his education minister appointment Tuesday, becoming the first cabinet pick by President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol to flame out.
Kim spoke to reporters in front of the preparatory office for confirmation hearings in Yeouido, western Seoul, on Tuesday morning but refused to discuss the family favoritism charges that doomed his appointment.
“I wanted to return the benefits I had received from the country and society through my last public service, but I was lacking a lot,” Kim said.
“I won't give any explanation,” he said. “It's all my fault and my negligence.”
Kim thanked President-elect Yoon for “entrusting him with heavy responsibility” and wished him luck.
Since his nomination as education minister, Kim and his family came into a harsh spotlight over Fulbright scholarships awarded to himself, his wife, daughter and son.
Outrage has been growing in Korea over nepotism and 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.
Kim was a Fulbright scholar from 1996 to 1997, and years later 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 scholarships coincided with the period in which he was in those positions.
In addition, Kim was criticized for miscommunication and having conflicts with students during his term as president of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, while also facing suspicions of embezzlement of school expenses and plagiarizing his thesis.
A Monday night report that Kim held a student's final dissertation defense in a luxury Korean restaurant with hostess service played a critical role in pressuring Kim to resign.
According to the JoongAng Ilbo, Kim informed President-elect Yoon that night that he was abandoning his nomination without informing the preparatory team for his confirmation hearing or the presidential transition committee.
At Tuesday’s meeting with the press, Kim left without answering questions about the controversies, but later gave a brief reason for his resignation via the Ministry of Education's spokesman's office.
"I had concerns over my family's future," he was quoted as saying. "I wanted to eliminate the harshness of having even my beloved students called to the hearing.”
Yoon has promised “fairness and common sense” as core values for his administration, and two of his cabinet picks have been accused of unfairly helping their kids get ahead.
Aside from Kim, health minister nominee Chung Ho-young is accused of arranging special treatment for his children when they applied for admission to a top-rated medical school. Chung said he was "regretful and sorry" Tuesday but wasn't planning to abandon the nomination.
At his parliamentary confirmation hearing Tuesday, Chung said he “believes there is no moral or ethical problem.”
BY SEO JI-EUN [email@example.com]