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Education Chief May Be Asked to Leave

Posted August. 01, 2006 03:02,   


Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook will make an official announcement on August 1 regarding the future of Education Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Kim Byung-joon, who is facing pressure to resign due to controversies arising from allegations of plagiarism.

Related to this, Prime Minister Han held a closed meeting with Uri Party floor leader Kim Han-gil on July 30, where both held an in-depth discussion about the future of Deputy Prime Minister Kim.

It is reported that at this meeting, the inevitable resignation of the deputy prime minister was discussed, and it was suggested that Kim should be pressured to quit voluntarily. If he refuses to follow such path, another option would be for the prime minister to submit a resignation proposal to the president.

The National Assembly plans to hold an Education Committee meeting on August 1 with Deputy Prime Minister Kim attending and inquire about his allegations of plagiarism. The Uri Party plans to grant Kim an opportunity to explain his side of the story.

The Prime Minister’s Office Senior Secretary for Press Affairs Kim Seok-hwan held an urgent briefing on the afternoon of July 31 and stated, “Prime Minister Han will watch the proceeding of National Assembly’s Education Committee meeting, which will be held on August 1, and then express her official position. However, the timing of her announcement might be slightly changed.”

He also explained, “Under the current circumstances where allegations are colliding against more allegations, the prime minister thinks that finding the facts is the highest priority. However, since this issue has turned into a political issue, she will make a decision based on the academic and ethical problems as well as taking political considerations.”

Regarding what the prime minister’s announcement might carry, Secretary Kim answered, “Currently, I can’t tell what she has decided, but it might include all the legal authority bestowed upon her.”

Under article 17 of the constitution, the prime minister can nominate Cabinet members and also possess the authority to propose their resignations.

Meanwhile, on the same day, Uri Party officials pressured from all angles and urged for the deputy prime minister’s voluntary resignation.

Dong-A Ilbo conducted a last-minute survey on Uri Party lawmakers regarding the deputy prime minister’s future, and 29, or 50.8 percent, of the 57 lawmakers who responded said, “Deputy Prime Minister Kim should make his own decision,” while 12 respondents, or 21 percent, answered that more time to dig the facts was necessary. However, 28.1 percent, of 16 lawmakers refused to respond or abstained from expressing their opinion.

There wasn’t a single response saying that this wasn’t an issue to resign over.

At a the ruling party’s Emergency Measures Committee meeting held on the same day, Uri Party Chairman Kim Geun-tae said, “Allegations over Deputy Prime Minister Kim’s plagiarism, looked back on past practices, has some justifiable aspects, but the present calls for a new era and new practices. It is the clear truth that the people of Korea demand a high level of moral standards from the education minister.”

Uri Party Lawmaker Min Byung-doo, who was appointed as the party’s public relations committee chairman, posted an article on his website urging Deputy Prime Minister Kim, “If there are false allegations, set them right at the Education Committee and boldly resign after the Standing Committee is concluded.”

On the other hand, the Grand National Party, Democratic Party, Democratic Labor Party, and People First Party plan to hold a floor leaders’ meeting on the morning of August 1 at the National Assembly to urge the voluntary resignation of Deputy Prime Minister Kim and discuss submitting a resignation proposal if he does not resign.

yongari@donga.com sys1201@donga.com