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[Editorial] Problematic Ministerial and Party Candidate Nominations

[Editorial] Problematic Ministerial and Party Candidate Nominations

Posted March. 05, 2008 07:17,   


Criticism is casting a dark shadow over President Lee Myung-bak’s ministerial nomination and the Grand National Party’s (GNP) candidate nomination for the upcoming Apr. 4 general elections. It’s clear that these haven’t gone over well with the voters, either. The focus of the opposition concentrates on Welfare Minister-appointee Kim Soung-yee and the GNP’s nomination of Jeong Deok-gu, who was previously a member of former President Roh Moo-hyun’s Uri Party.

Minister-appointee Kim has been riddled with integrity issues: plagiarizing his papers, evading taxes on his income from leases, and embezzling 12.8 million won as chairman of the Commission on Youth Protection. In addition, he received a presidential citation for presenting a dissertation which became the theoretical basis for the Chun Doo-hwan administration’s crackdown of the students’ democratic movement. Moreover, Kim allegedly purchased some land in Gyeonggi Province for speculation purposes.

In addition, his daughter, who voluntarily forfeited her Korean citizenship, received medical services in Korea with Kim’s state-sponsored health insurance coverage. Last May, Kim raised another red flag by writing a column in a newspaper, arguing that religious faith is a key factor in determining the success of welfare policies and services. Of course, South Korea protects the freedom of religion, but our constitution mandates the separation of church and state. It seems doubtful whether this candidate can properly adhere to the constitution.

As a public servant, he has little ethics. And now, we have no trust in him and do not believe he can lead the nation’s welfare policies even-handedly. We still don’t understand how the Lee administration could select such an ill-qualified person to be a member of his Cabinet. Citing the lack of qualified persons is not convincing enough. Only Kim’s voluntary withdrawal from the appointment can be the most reasonable solution. If he hangs on to the post, and if President Lee pushes ahead with his choice, this will haunt the administration long down the road.

Likewise, GNP insiders are critical of the nomination of Jeong Deok-gu as a party candidate. In Myung-jin, chairman of the GNP`s ethics committee, lashed out at the decision, saying, “Our party nominated an individual who left the party, but has now returned us because the party he previously belonged to is now doing poorly.” Jeong served as commerce minister under the Kim Dae-jung administration and as a proportional representative in former President Roh’s Uri Party. Jeong, however, boasts of strong personal relations with President Lee. He went to Lee’s alma mater, Korea University, and has been a member of the same church Lee attends. No wonder Chairman In is critical of a decision that seems to be based on personal relationships.

No matter how well Jeong has established and maintained his personal ties, it does not make sense at all to give the party nomination to a person who served in key posts in the administrations of opposing parties, nor to someone who flip-flopped on his political tenants and associations. We don’t see any of the principles that the Grand National Party has long promised us, nor the picture of the new administration we longed for. Park Jae-seung, chairman of the main opposition United Democratic Party’s candidate screening committee, publicly promised to exclude any person with a history of bribery. If Park’s promises are carried through, then the GNP faces the real possibility of losing to the opposition party in the upcoming general elections.