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GNP Grills Energy Minister Appointee

Posted February. 09, 2006 04:30,   


The National Assembly Commerce, Industry, and Energy Committee’s confirmation hearing for its ministerial appointee, Chung Sye-kyun, was filled with commotion from the outset.

Grand National Party (GNP) legislators demanded Chung “take responsibility and apologize for crippling the National Assembly for 53 days by railroading the new private school law through the National Assembly late last year. But Chung refused to do so, and the morning session of the confirmation hearing stopped.

Commerce, Industry, and Energy Committee Chairman Kim Yong-kap intervened, saying, “How about commenting on the issue, if not making an apology? That doesn’t seem to be asking too much from you.” But Chung remained stubborn, saying, “If I make remarks on my opinion on the private school law, it will worsen the situation.”

The confirmation hearing came to an abrupt halt at that point when GNP legislators left the room. The hearing resumed at 3:00 p.m., but both sides stuck fast to their respective stances.

Chung refused to answer questions on his handling of the private school law, saying, “It is an issue that is being discussed in the current session of the National Assembly. Besides, people don’t want to see the confirmation hearing turn into an arena of political arguments.” Despite the attacks from the opposition party, Chung didn’t budge, saying, “I have nothing to apologize for.”

GNP legislators grilled Chung with questions about Chung’s 78 driving violations over six years, real-estate speculation suspicions regarding the one billion won increase in his personal assets over the last 10 years, and suspicions of his involvement in a “camouflaged move-in” when his family moved its resident registration to North Jeolla Province in time for the competitive election among party members that was held to choose the party’s candidate for the post of the North Jeolla Province governor in 2002.

Regarding his driving violations, Chung said, “I feel shameful and embarrassed. That won’t happen again.” When asked if it is right to “abandon” the post of the chairman of the ruling party in order to assume the post of a minister, Chung said, “The post of a minister is not something that one asks for. It is an appointed office whose holder is designated by a person who has the power to appoint. I don’t agree with the view that I’m obsessed with rising to a higher position.”

When GNP Assemblyman Yoon Doo-hwan raised the issue of his “camouflaged move-in,” pointing out that Chung lived for just 34 days in his constituency during the general election for the 15th National Assembly, Chung replied, “My family moved into the constituency to assist me with my campaign and therefore, it was quite natural for me to move my resident registration there.”

As for the issue of lending support to small and medium-sized enterprises to promote their exports, Chung said, “If I take office, I’ll make efforts so that there will be an unlimited supply of foreign exchange risk insurance so that insurance fees will go down.”

I’ll make efforts to supply unlimited foreign exchange risk insurance so that insurance fees will go down.”

Jung-Eun Lee lightee@donga.com