Park must withdraw herselfPark Soon-ae, a former professor at Seoul National University Graduate School of Public Administration nominated as the deputy prime minister doubling as the education minister, refuses to withdraw herself from candidacy despite various allegations against her, including a drunk driving record. President Yoon Suk-yeol has kept an ambiguous position to suggest he could go through the appointment despite her scandalous track record. If a legislative confirmation hearing cannot be held this week due to disputes over the formation of standing committees for the second half of the year, President Yoon could endorse her appointment without a legislative confirmation.
Driving while intoxicated cannot be excused in any government office. The Ministry of Education has mandated that a single drinking and driving record disqualifies candidates for school principles. Someone who even cannot be eligible to oversee a school cannot be qualified to command the education policy of the government.
When asked about her record, President Yoon said, “Other factors such as frequency rate of the crime and ethical issues should be considered” before canceling her nomination.
Park was caught driving while intoxicated in 2001 when the police had been campaigning hard against getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. At that time, deaths from traffic accidents topped 10,000 in Korea, the most among the OECD.
Her blood alcohol level when she was caught was 0.251 percent, twice more than 0.1 percent that cancels a driving license. Park in 1993 was fined 500,000 won ($389) for violating the traffic accident prevention law.
Park said her deed of 20 years ago cannot be excused and still regretted it deeply. The court pardoned her with a light sentence, but she said she could not be “forgiven morally.” If so, she should have rejected the offer of nomination from the beginning.
The presidential office has ended up choosing a scandal-ridden candidate after its earlier nominee Kim In-chul had to step aside over ethical issues. Kim Seung-hee, nominee for welfare minister, is also facing various allegations against her despite the government’s earlier flop by picking Chung Ho-young. Education minister nominee Park’s criminal record could have been discovered from a simple file check.
Yoon chastised the education ministry for its lacking role in raising the talent for the semiconductor industry. Education reform is crucial to upgrade the new administration’s education policy in line with the changes of the times. The president must pick competent ministers with no ethical problems. Park is not one. She must withdraw herself.