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Mock Confirmation Hearings

Posted September. 14, 2010 11:45,   


Upon the inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama last year, the secretariat of the new administration sent 63 questionnaires to candidates for top jobs to verify their qualifications. The questions included, “Have you been subject to a traffic fine of more than 50 dollars?” or “Has any member of your family engaged in lobbying activity?” Candidates were also asked to send resumes they had submitted over the past 10 years. The White House, the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service then questioned friends, neighbors and relatives of the candidates while perusing a variety of records.

The U.S. system of verifying the qualifications of candidates for top administrative posts is famous for strictness. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson once had to withdraw his nomination for commerce secretary because of an investigation into alleged improper business dealings. Former South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle also dropped out of the running for health and human services secretary before Senate confirmation hearings due to failure to pay 100,000 dollars in back taxes over three years.

In Korea, the Office of the President will conduct mock confirmation hearings ahead of parliamentary confirmation hearings when designating top officials. Nominees must submit before the mock hearings answers to 200 questions on false address registration, drunk driving, purchase of real estate in redevelopment areas, and other sensitive topics. They then have to pass a variety of assessments before going on to the mock hearings. The confirmation hearing committee, led by a presidential secretary and comprising 10 senior secretariat staff members, will filter out candidates considered unfit to serve in the Cabinet.

A strict verification process is better than mending the barn after the horse has been stolen. The flaws of minister-designates in the Cabinet reshuffle last week, however, had been previously detected by the presidential office’s verification process. The system failed to operate properly when the presidential office showed paternalism toward nominees who admitted to lying about their residential addresses due to education for their children rather than for speculative purposes, and those who said they purchased houses in poor towns to prepare for aging. The presidential office should stop thinking that small flaws are excusable if the nominee has the strong trust of the president. Exercising fairness to everyone without exception based on strict criteria is crucial.

Editorial Writer Park Seong-won (swpark@donga.com)