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[Editorial] What Happened under Watch of Justice Minister Kim?

[Editorial] What Happened under Watch of Justice Minister Kim?

Posted August. 07, 2007 05:45,   


Justice Minister Kim Seong-ho’s “voluntary offer to resign” has gotten Cheong Wa Dae out of trouble. His 11-month tenure, starting from last August 30, was not smooth from the start. Cheong Wa Dae gave him a “verbal warning” for conducting an interview with Dong-A Ilbo. He lost favor with President Roh for being in contact with the conservative media, which has virtually been banned for cabinet members.

He often provoked the ire of Cheong Wa Dae officials by making pro-business remarks, which run counter to the leftist economic policies of the Roh administration. Minister Kim started to speak out on his stance last December at a press conference, saying, “I will show as much leniency as possible to businesses if they voluntarily correct their window dressing settlement practice.” This January, in an interview with this newspaper, he also took the side of businesses by warning the labor groups that he would apply a no-leniency principle to illegal protests without exception. He held on to his pro-business stance at meetings with business organizations held in January and February, saying, “The wrong practice in which those with louder voices win and illegal strikes bring about an increase in wages should be eliminated. I will try to make a business-friendly environment based on legal terms.” His remarks deserved applause from the public since they indicated his determination to invigorate the economy and root out illicit violent protests.

Kim’s unyielding position ended up conflicting with Cheong Wa Dae on June 11. When asked by the National Assembly about the constitutionality of the controversial Article 9 of the election law for which President Roh was accused of violating, Kim said, “I don’t think that it is not unconstitutional.” His answer was diametrically opposed to Roh’s accusation made against it just three days before. President Roh said that it was a hypocritical law beyond example in world history. There were lingering rumors that officials in Cheong Wa Dae gave up on him since then. However, it was natural for Kim in the capacity of justice minister to make remarks that are consistent with the decision of the Constitution Court of Korea and the National Election Commission’s interpretation of the election law.

Reports said that he rubbed Cheong Wa Dae’s feathers the wrong way on June 12 by saying with regard to the countercharge between the Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye camps that if they withdrew the charges, the prosecution would not investigate the matter. Cheong Wa Dae seems to have been in a quandary between the two choices: dismissing and making him a martyr or enduring a pain in the neck by retaining him. When Kim tendered his resignation, Cheong Wa Dae on Sunday said, “There was no pressure.” The present administration is still looking for those in the same chord, though it has already lost the support of the public.