Confirmation hearings for the five minister nominees to accompany South Korean President Moon Jae-in for the rest of his term of a little over a year were held at the National Assembly on Tuesday. The fit of a nominee for the Minister of Science and ICT Lim Hye-sook and a nominee for the Minister of Oceans and Fisheries Park Joon-young for public service was under criticism. The issues are rather petty and embarrassing for the verification of minister nominees.
Lim who was criticized for quitting her position as the chair of the board of directors for the National Research Council of Science & Technology brought her spouse and two daughters when she attended academic conferences as a professor in overseas tourist cities, such as Hawaii and Barcelona. Lim said it was not considerate, but bringing her family to overseas trips, which were supported by national grants, is a clear sign that she has blurred boundaries between work and personal life. Although she denied strongly the suspicion that she unfairly used her students for her and her spouse’s journals, a thorough evaluation should be carried out from the students’ perspectives given the subordinate relations between a professor and students.
On the other hand, Park who imported a large amount of European ceramics worth tens of millions of won as part of his moving back to South Korea after serving as a South Korean diplomat in the U.K. raises the question of how he has served in public office for 30 years. Although he said he will follow the guidance of the Korea Customs Service, it can be viewed as a violation of the Customs Act using the privileges of a diplomat. To call it his spouse’s hobby, there were too many and some of them were sold domestically. There were also pictures of several luxury chandeliers. Park cannot be a good fit for the head of the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, which works closely with the Korea Coast Guard that regulates smuggling. This is why the Justice Party said his action was worse than the smuggling of a small merchant and called him the No. 1 on the list of the so-called ‘Death Note.’
A nominee for the Minister of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs Noh Hyeong-ouk apologized for selling an apartment unit in Sejong, which was provided as a special supply for a public official, with the profit of 220 million while a nominee for the Minister of Trade, Industry, and Energy Moon Sung-wook apologized for gift tax evasion.
As it gets closer to the end of the presidential term, the discipline of public officials may become relaxed, which negatively affects the resolution of current issues for public welfare. This is why the role of a minister who leads an organization with thousands of members is critical. Lim and Park are believed unfit for their respective positions even by the Justice Party. While President Moon forced the appointment of 29 minister-level nominees without the agreement of the opposition party for the past four years, it should be different this time. He should reflect on how the public turned away from the one-sided handling of government affairs and truly consider the withdrawal of the nomination of the unfit nominees for cooperation with the opposition party to ensure the smooth end of his term.