President Park Geun-hye has come under pressure to “normalize” her abnormally secretive style of picking candidates for high offices, after Prime Minister-designate Moon Chang-keuk bowed out Tuesday.
The latest setback came as critics and the media called for the president to overhaul her nomination process, which has been criticized for keeping to a highly limited pool of candidates and a lack of recommendations outside of the presidential inner circle.
The presidential office is reportedly considering a change in its vetting process for prime minister and other key posts in the face of public criticism, but it remains unclear whether or how it will reform the way it vets new nominees.
Repeated nomination failures also left a vacuum in Park’s state reform drive aimed at alleviating public anxiety and helping the government improve its image in the aftermath of the Sewol disaster.
Moon’s widely expected exit on Tuesday came after former Supreme Court justice Ahn Dae-hee withdrew his nomination last month amid spiraling allegations that he received favors from his prosecutorial network.
Moon was Park’s second choice, but the former journalist caved after his past remarks on Japan’s colonization and use of sex slaves touched off a wave of criticism.
The two former prime minister nominees, as well as other minister-designates, also faced strong criticism from the opposition party over alleged irregularities.
|Presidential Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon|
The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy is expected to grill the eight nominees for ministerial posts during the planned confirmation hearings to further castigate Cheong Wa Dae’s appointment system.
The National Assembly is required to complete confirmation hearings for the nominees within 20 days of when the government submits a bill for their approval.
Shortly after Moon’s withdrawal, Park on Tuesday approved the submission of a bill for a hearing of her other nominees. Nominees subjected to a hearing include the head of the National Intelligence Service and deputy premiers for economic and social affairs, but only the prime minister nominee needs parliamentary approval.
NIS chief nominee Lee Byung-kee is being attacked by the opposition over his alleged involvement in a 2002 corruption scandal. Lee allegedly delivered massive funds to the election camp of Lee Hoi-chang, then presidential candidate of the Grand National Party, the predecessor to the Saenuri Party. Education Minister nominee Kim Myung-soo came under fire for allegedly plagiarizing his student’s paper.
The opposition party was joined by some lawmakers in the ruling Saenuri Party in urging Park to hold her top aide responsible for the persistent nomination debacles.
Presidential Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon, Park’s longtime aide, is the head of the presidential committee for personnel affairs. Park has been under pressure to abandon Kim, who has been criticized for exercising too much power behind the scenes. Political opponents believe that Kim is the one making the series of unsuccessful and unbalanced nominations, relying heavily on his networks of prosecutors and judges. Kim is a former justice minister.
Cheong Wa Dae remains tight-lipped about the personnel screening system. But the presidential office is reportedly reviewing plans including forming an independent and external personnel verification committee or a committee consisting of members from Cheong Wa Dae and the ruling Saenuri Party.
Saenuri Rep. Kim Moo-sung, who has declared his bid for the party’s chairmanship, said in a recent interview that Kim and Park’s other key aides at the top office monopolized power over personnel lineups and that the president should have an external committee.
“The personnel appointment system itself is too exclusive and secretive,” Rep. Kim said. “The party and Cheong Wa Dae need to hold the personnel committee together,” he added.
NPAD cochairman Ahn Cheol-soo also urged Park to consult with the ruling party when picking nominees for high-ranking posts.
“I suggest Cheong Wa Dae conducts talks with the political circles, at least with the ruling party, to select nominees for prime minister and ministers,” Rep. Ahn said during a meeting with party members.
By Cho Chung-un (email@example.com)