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Confirmation hearings not enough to verify nominees

Posted May. 03, 2022 08:05,   

Updated May. 03, 2022 08:05


Confirmation hearings for President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol’s Cabinet member nominees began Monday. On the first day, Prime Minister nominee Han Duck-soo and five ministerial nominees were put to the test. The ruling Democratic Party (DP) bombarded the nominees with questions, criticizing them as being full of “suspicions” and “corruptions.”

Prime Minister nominee Han became a key target for receiving high consulting fees from a large law firm after resigning from public office. The DP said the case of Han, who worked for Kim & Chang law firm after resigning from public office, is the epitome of revolving door and conflict of interests. Han denied the allegation saying what he did at the law firm was related to public diplomacy and there was nothing that could be recognized as conflict of interests. He added that he had never called or asked for a favor to a junior public official. However, he made an apology, saying that he is sorry that the consulting fees were high from the public’s point of view.

There was a fierce political battle surrounding Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister nominee Choo Kyung-ho, who is in controversy over his engagement in Lone Star Funds’ illegal acquisition of the Korea Exchange Bank, and accumulation of property amounting to 3 billion won after his retirement as the head of the Office of Government Policy Coordination. Choo said he would make the same decision again if he had to do it again. He justified his accumulation of wealth, saying he purchased an apartment in Dogok-dong at 1.38 billion won in 2015, and the price of land has gone up a lot since then.

A series of suspicions were raised surrounding Land Minister nominee Won Hee-ryong, such as giving preferential treatment for Odeungbong Park private project, changing the usage of the site of his house, and misappropriating a corporate card during his tenure as the Jeju governor. Won made excuses, saying the private project was the first in the country to achieve the excess profit of 8.9 percent, he changed the usage of the land because of complaints from residents, and he never used a corporate card for anything other than public work.

There were also suspicions surrounding the two children of Foreign Minister nominee Park Jin. They allegedly entered a prestigious university in the country through a special admission scheme. Park also came under suspicion of pulling strings for his daughter to help her get a job at the Korea Economic Institute of America. Park refuted the suspicions, saying they went through a legitimate procedure. Some nominees, such as Culture Minister nominee Park Bo-kyun, caused controversies by not submitting requested document due to their family’s opposition.

Overall, the confirmation hearings were not enough to verify the competency and morality of the nominees and clear all the suspicions. Verifications were blunt and the nominees were busy avoiding questions. Confirmation hearings will continue until next week. They should serve as the opportunities that unqualified nominees are filtered out not based on political parties’ interests or positions but based on the public’s standard. Going through a strict rite of passage is also the way for the Yoon Suk-yeol administration to succeed.