Suspicions of wrongdoings started to surface on Monday, even before Lee’s office sends a formal letter to the National Assembly, asking it to confirm the appointment of Kwon Jae-jin as justice minister and Han Sang-dae as prosecutor general.
|Prosecutor-general nominee Han Sang-dae (Yonhap News)|
Han, who currently heads the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office, admitted one of the suspicions that he had violated twice a law on address registration.
In a press statement released Monday, he said he had reported a wrong home address to the authorities to allow his two daughters to get into the same schools as their close friends.
“There was no ulterior motive (behind the violation,) such as real estate speculation. Yet, I apologize,” Han said.
The presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae stood by the nominee, saying that it knew about the breach.
“We deemed that it was not a defect serious enough to make him unfit for the post of prosecutor general.” Park Jung-ha, the presidential spokesperson said.
False resident registration is a criminal offense in Korea, punishable by up to 3 years in jail and a fine of up to 10 million won ($9,400), although the law has not been strictly enforced.
Another suspicion revolves round the nominee’s exemption from the mandatory military service. It was known that Han’s exemption was because he had a surgery for a herniated disc after an injury sustained as a member of an American football club of the university he attended.
Han was never injured from a game, a local newspaper claimed Monday, citing the nominee’s friends from the team.
“My spinal condition became bad because of American football games and it deteriorated while I prepared for the bar exam, so much so that I needed surgery,” Han said, refuting the report.
Lee’s alma mater, Korea University, is known to be loyal to the president.
Nominee for Justice Minister Kwon Jae-jin is certain to be grilled at his parliamentary confirmation hearing, as he is unpopular even in the ruling camp.
As a long-time aide to Lee, currently serving him as secretary in charge of civil affairs, the nominee has been talked about in relation with a series of influence-peddling scandals. The latest is one that involves some corrupt savings banks which allegedly ran a wide bribery network in an effort to salvage their ailing businesses.
“We’re getting a lot of tips about the justice minister nominee,” Rep. Noh Young-min of the main opposition Democratic Party told a radio program, vowing a thorough scrutiny of him during the parliamentary hearing.
Rep. Kim Jin-pyo, DP floor leader, said: “I cannot but think that the president wants to protect himself as his term closes, by nominating his secretary and a loyalist to run the Justice Ministry and the prosecution.”
Cheong Wa Dae plans to formally request the parliament to begin the confirmation process Tuesday.
By Lee Sun-young (email@example.com)