Controversy escalated on Sunday over Prime Minister-nominee Ahn Dae-hee’s high income reported last year, with some speculating that the former Supreme Court judge was able to make money in a short period of time because he was granted special treatment at courts after he became an attorney.
Ahn opened a law office in Yongsan, central Seoul, last July, a year after he retired as a judge at the country’s top court. He was reported to have earned about 1.6 billion won ($1.56 million) in just five months through legal consultations and cases he worked on. Of the total, he paid 600 million won in taxes and donated 470 million won to schools and institutions for underprivileged children, he said. The rest, 500 million won, was used to buy an apartment in Seoul, he added.
Despite his explanation, he is likely to face a barrage of questions from lawmakers about how he was able to draw such a large income in less than six months. The prime minister nominee needs to obtain a parliamentary approval. The National Assembly is expected to hold a confirmation hearing on Ahn early next month.
The lawmakers are expected to grill him over whether he had experienced “jeon-gwan-ye-u,” a practice that gives preferential treatment to retired officials. The deeply rooted practice is widespread in Korea, especially among prosecutors and judges.
Amid growing speculations, Ahn told reporters on Sunday that he would explain himself at the confirmation hearing. “I will talk next time. I will talk much (about it) during the confirmation hearing,” he said while heading to his office.
President Park Geun-hye last week nominated Ahn, a former judge and prosecutor, as new premier, touting him as the right man to lead her drive to eradicate corruptive practices in public offices. The new prime minister will also take charge of a new government organization plan aimed at reforming civil service and to improve the nation’s safety standards in the wake of the ferry disaster that left more than 300 dead or missing. Ahn is to replace incumbent Prime Minister Chung Hong-won, who offered to resign to hold himself responsible for the government’s failures during the ferry disaster.
By Cho Chung-un (firstname.lastname@example.org)