Inexperienced minister nominee faces tough confirmation hearing

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Feb 13, 2014 - 22:13
  • Updated : Feb 13, 2014 - 22:13

Lee Ju-young. (Yonhap)

Controversy is enshrouding President Park Geun-hye’s latest decision to nominate ruling Saenuri Party Rep. Lee Ju-young as the Minister of Oceans and Fisheries, with skeptics saying the new designee lacks expertise in marine affairs.

The opposition warned they would “thoroughly” examine the four-time lawmaker in his parliamentary confirmation hearing before agreeing to Park’s latest cabinet decision.

Park appointed Lee as her new fisheries minister on Wednesday after firing Yoon Jin-sook, who made controversial remarks concerning the recent oil spill in Yeosu, South Jeolla Province, which devastated local fishermen.

“I can’t help but say (Park’s decision) was somewhat out of the blue although (Lee) is a very respectable person,” said Yang Seung-ham, professor of political science at Yonsei University. The decision shows President Park Geun-hye valued political acumen in her newest Cabinet member over expertise, he added.

Other than that Lee’s hometown is the port town of Masan, South Gyeongsang Province, the lawmaker has no ties with “oceans and fisheries,” he noted.

The main opposition Democratic Party responded to Lee’s nomination by highlighting his lack of experience and his connection to President Park Geun-hye.

“It appears that his political savvy and that he is a leading pro-Park figure played a big part (in Lee’s selection),” DP spokesperson Rep. Han Jeoung-ae said in a statement on Wednesday.

She added Lee’s lack of expertise and experience in maritime affairs casts doubt on whether he is suitable for the post.

The DP spokesperson also honed in on his stance on the four-river restoration project, saying that he had earned the public’s distrust for supporting the project.

Lee, a former judge, served as a senior strategist on Park’s presidential campaign team during the 2012 elections, and as a senior Saenuri Party official. The 62-year-old was also regarded as a strong candidate to become the party’s next floor leader in the National Assembly.

His appointment to a Cabinet post means the race will be open to other prominent representatives. Rep. Lee Wan-koo and Rep. Nam Kyung-pil of the ruling party are considered possible contenders.

By Choi He-suk and Jeong Hunny