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Controversy plagues Cabinet nominees

Opposition questions integrity of prime minister, NIS chief nominees, calls for their withdrawal

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Published : 2014-06-16 21:36
Updated : 2014-06-16 21:36

Controversy over the qualifications of President Park Geun-hye’s nominees for prime minister and other top posts continued Monday, as new allegations raised questions about their integrity.

A fresh suspicion emerged that Prime Minister Moon Chang-keuk was given preferential treatment during his three-year mandatory military service in the Navy, using nearly half of his national service period to study at a graduate school.

Moon served as a commissioned officer in the Navy from July 1972-July 1975 and studied at the gradunte school of political science at Seoul National University between 1974 and 1975.

Opposition lawmakers pointed out that it was strange for a soldier to spend so much time studying for a master’s degree when the whole military was on alert due to the sinking of a naval vessel and assassination of first lady Yook Young-soo in 1974.

The Prime Minister’s Office, which is helping Moon prepare for his confirmation hearing, said that Moon was not assigned to do any specific job at the time and could attend the school with approval from the chief of naval operations.

Rep. Bae Jae-jeung of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy said it was hard to understand how a soldier in an emergency situation could receive civilian education during the daytime.

“Customarily, officers could attend evening classes after work. But they could not go to school during the daytime,” she told reporters. “Given that all armed services were in an emergency mode, we cannot help but think that he was given special treatment.”

Despite this suspicion and escalating controversy over his past remarks, Cheong Wa Dae plans to submit to the National Assembly on Tuesday a motion to request a confirmation hearing for the prime minister nominee.

National Intelligence Service chief nominee Lee Byung-kee also struggled to cope with the controversy over his alleged involvement in a 2002 corruption scandal.

While serving as a political aide to Lee Hoi-chang while he was the presidential candidate of the Grand National Party, the precursor to the Saenuri Party, the NIS nominee was allegedly directed to deliver a large sum of money to Rep. Rhee In-je to help Lee’s election campaign.

He was questioned by the prosecution on the allegations but did not face criminal charges as his involvement was limited to delivering the money. But his involvement in the scandal resulted in his failure to get party nomination for the 2004 general election.

The NIS nominee said that he would express his position about the scandal during his confirmation hearing.

“Whatever the reason may be, I am sorry to the people for the past unsavory incident,” he told reporters as he arrived at Gimpo Airport after wrapping up his time as Seoul’s ambassador to Japan.

Song Kwang-yong, Park’s pick for senior secretary for education and culture, also faced increasing criticism over allegations of plagiarism. Song was reported to have published a thesis in a prestigious academic journal that was similar to a student’s thesis.

Song was listed as the principal author of the thesis, while his pupil was listed as the secondary author. Song admitted that he should have been listed as the secondary author, but claimed that his pupil asked that Song be listed as first author as his reputation could make publishing the paper easier.

By Song Sang-ho (sshluck@heraldcorp.com)

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