[Newsmaker] P.M. nomination raises hopes, doubts

By Korea Herald
  • Published : May 23, 2014 - 20:20
  • Updated : May 23, 2014 - 20:20

Once known as the “people’s prosecutor,” Ahn Dae-hee is now set for the highest unelected government post with much riding on his shoulders.

As a “star prosecutor” who made a point of defying political pressure to bring heavyweights on both sides to justice, Ahn has been hailed as the right man to spearhead President Park Geun-hye’s drive to root out corruption from civil service.

As the prime minister, he will be in charge of a new government organization for reforming civil service aimed specifically at fighting “gwanpia,” referring to the network of corruption linking former bureaucrats with the private sector.
Prime Minister nominee Ahn Dae-hee heads to the government complex annex in central Seoul on Friday to prepare for his parliamentary confirmation hearing. (Yonhap)

In addition, Ahn’s appointment is seen as an expression of the president’s determination in “normalizing the abnormal,” an expression she used to describe the efforts of eliminating illegal and illogical practices throughout Korean society.

During his 25-year career as a prosecutor, Ahn made a name for himself as a man of principle, taking on a number of high-profile cases.

The case that launched him into fame came during the Roh Moo-hyun administration, when he headed the investigation into illegal funding during the 2002 presidential election. In contrast to the common public perception that the prosecution folds when facing higher powers, Ahn took a number of high-profile politicians to court.

His actions during that investigation even led to the birth of a fan club, making Ahn the country’s first prosecutor with such an organization.

The ruling Saenuri Party responded to his nomination by highlighting his background, while the opposition bloc appeared less than thrilled.

Other than his background as a prosecutor, the opposition parties appear to have little problems with Ahn himself.

However, his links to presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-choon is proving to be a nagging issue. The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy has long called for Kim’s removal, accusing him of involvement in a series of high-profile political developments that have taken place since President Park Geun-hye took office.

Ahn and Kim are both former prosecutors, and the nominee has made no secret that he holds the chief of staff in high regard.

The opposition parties also raised concerns about the strict hierarchy of the prosecutors’ office, questioning whether Ahn would be able to remain unaffected by Kim.

By Choi He-suk (