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Parties on collision course over Sewol, P.M. nominee

The two main parties are set to clash heads over the Sewol ferry disaster and Prime Minister-designate Moon Chang-keuk in the three-day interpellation session, as each seeks to gain the upper hand ahead of the July 30 parliamentary by-elections.

The three-day session, which begins Wednesday, will be dominated by issues surrounding the April 16 ferry disaster, which left more than 300 people dead or missing.

The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy is also expected to hone in on President Park Geun-hye’s personnel management, which it has termed a disaster.

The ruling party Saenuri Party, for its part, has come to Moon’s defense, saying that he needs to be vetted through the confirmation hearing.

The ruling party has also attacked the opposition bloc, accusing it of using the controversy surrounding Moon to score political points.

The NPAD, which has been concentrating fire on Moon’s questionable comments regarding historical issues, called for his withdrawal Sunday.

“(If Moon stays on) it will be an insult to the people, turn Korea into a pathetic nation, cast doubt on President Park Geun-hye’s concept of a nation and bring ridicule to the Saenuri Party,” NPAD spokesman Park Gwang-on said.

“The people have made their judgment. The colonization (of Korea by Japan) and division (of the peninsula) are not the God’s will, but Moon’s resignation is the will of the people.”

Aside from the columns Moon wrote as a chief editorial writer of a national daily that the opposition claims to have a conservative bias, Moon’s historical views have been brought into question. In a lecture he delivered at his church, Moon said that Japan’s colonization of Korea and the 1950-53 Korean War were all part of God’s plan.

Moon, for his part, attempted to put the matter to rest with an explanation and apology on Sunday. 
Moon Chang-keuk. (Yonhap)
Moon Chang-keuk. (Yonhap)

In a press conference Moon said that his comments were meant for the parishioners of his church and that they were based on the Christian belief that God is behind all things. He also apologized to the families of late Presidents Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Dae-jung, whom he has been accused of insulting in the columns he wrote as a journalist.

In explaining his comments, Moon also implied that he had no intention of stepping down.

“All the problematic things are those I did as a journalist. If I am to hold a public post, I believe that I need to conduct myself and serve in roles befitting to the post,” Moon said.

The ruling party, which holds 148 of the 286 occupied National Assembly seats, can theoretically approve Moon as prime minister when the issue is put to a parliamentary vote. But it appears unlikely that the Saenuri Party will be able to railroad his approval.

Under local regulations, at least half of incumbent lawmakers must attend the session when voting on a prime minister, and more than half of them must approve.

A number of Saenuri Party lawmakers have openly criticized Moon, and it is likely to be a close vote. So far, six first-term Saenuri Party lawmakers have called on Moon to step down from his nomination, while Reps. Kim Sung-tae and Chung Moon-hun have voiced opposition to Moon being tapped for the post.

The ruling Saenuri Party is expected to focus on uncovering the cause of the accident and introducing preventive measures.

The Saenuri Party, whose former floor leader Rep. Choi Kyung-hwan has gotten the nod as the next deputy prime minister for the economy, is also said to be planning to urge the government to draw up measures to revive the economy.

Regarding the ferry accident, the ruling party hopes to divert the opposition’s attacks to concentrate on ways to address the long-standing problems revealed through the incident.

The main opposition NPAD, on the other hand, is likely to again highlight the government’s shortcomings in dealing with the accident.

By Choi He-suk (