Culture minister-nominee grilled over alleged tax evasion, real estate
President Lee Myung-bak’s culture minister-nominee pledged to end the cultural gap between social classes while being grilled by parliament over ethical issues on Monday.
“I will push for policies that help integrate society,” said minister-designate Choung Byoung-gug during his parliamentary confirmation hearing.
“I pledge to make the utmost effort in resolving the cultural inequality among different regions and social sectors. Everyone should be provided with better and wider cultures.”
Choung, a three-term lawmaker of the ruling Grand National Party, was grilled by opposition party lawmakers over alleged tax evasion, real estate speculation and other ethical issues.
MINISTERIAL MEETING — Culture Minister-nominee Choung Byoung-gug (seated) talks with Rep. Park Jie-won, floor leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, during a parliamentary confirmation hearing Monday. Park served as culture minister under the administration of the late President Kim Dae-jung. (Yonhap News)
The confirmation of Choung and Choi Joong-kyung, nominee for the position of minister of knowledge economy, has drawn keen attention following the recent resignation of President Lee’s designate for top state auditor.
Chung Tong-ki was forced to give up his candidacy over unjust money-making allegedly using his former status as a senior prosecutor and close ties with the president, dealing a blow to the Lee administration, which has two years left in office.
Also calling Choung “unfit” for the position, the main opposition Democratic Party grilled the minister-nominee over suspicions that he made tens of millions of won in 1995 using false documents to illegally purchase land just outside of Seoul, which later sold for state development.
The liberal party claims Choung’s wife used fraudulent documents to fulfill a law requiring urban residents to submit plans on how to manage any agricultural land they wish to buy.
Choung claims the current law was effective as of 1995.
“The wife of nominee Choung paid tax for the unjustly purchased land last week, just ahead of the confirmation hearing, after not paying up for 13 years,” DP lawmaker Choi Moon-soon claimed.
The party also suspects Choung of misappropriating state money for personal gas expenses in 2009, plagiarizing papers and evading taxes.
Lawmakers of the ruling GNP, meanwhile, focused on questioning Choung over his policies and cultural vision, accusing the rival party of making groundless accusations.
Rep. Jin Sung-ho of the GNP quizzed the minister-nominee on his plans for stronger protection of copyrights for Korean cultural products, while Rep. Kang Seung-kyu questioned him on the plans to overcome the ideological gap among different cultural sectors.
The National Assembly culture committee will hold an all-member meeting on Wednesday to vote on whether to approve of Choung as the new culture minister.
The parliament was also scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing on the economy minister-nominee on Tuesday.
By Shin Hae-in (firstname.lastname@example.org)