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Education nominee on shaky ground

Scandal-ridden professor loses supporters after ill-prepared hearing

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Published : 2014-07-10 21:04
Updated : 2014-07-10 21:04

Education Minister-designate Kim Myung-soo found his hopes of landing the post slipping away Thursday as the conservative bloc started to withdraw its support for the controversial former professor.

Kim, a 66-year-old former professor, faced tough questioning from opposition lawmakers during Wednesday’s confirmation hearing over multiple allegations of wrongdoing such as plagiarism, falsified credentials and shady stock transactions. 
Education Minister-designate Kim Myung-soo (Lee Gil-dong/The Korea Herald)

The right-leaning Korean Federation of Teachers’ Association said in a statement that teachers are doubtful that Kim is qualified to become the new education minister, who also serves as the country’s deputy premier in charge of social affairs.

“We hope Kim will withdraw his nomination and protect his reputation as a lifelong educator and a scholar,” the group said. “It would be reasonable for him to stop clinging to the (minister) post.”

The KFTA also said that the government must find out who is responsible for President Park Geun-hye’s continued failure to appoint appropriate candidates for high-ranking education posts, and revamp the personnel vetting system.

Members of the ruling Saenuri Party also started turning their backs on Kim. Rep. Shin Sung-bum, a member of the parliamentary committee on education and culture, said Saenuri’s initial resolve to “protect Kim until the end” is fading.

“The ruling party did all it can. We have to see what the presidential office will say,” a Saenuri official told the local media.

Kim being given the cold shoulder from his onetime supporters can hardly come as a surprise after his dismal performance at Wednesday’s hearing.

Although several Sanueri lawmakers made efforts to defend him, Kim’s attempt to clear his name ended up as an abysmal failure. He stuttered, uttered contradictory remarks, failed to answer a question on his educational philosophy and reacted to other questions with uncomfortably long pauses.

While members of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy showed evidence of his plagiarism ― including excerpts from his thesis and a dissertation by his student that had identical paragraphs ― Kim stubbornly denied all accusations of wrongdoing and defied the lawmaker’s call to withdraw from nomination.

He even said that in order to be considered plagiarism, it had to be a “unique idea or thought.”

A recent survey by a civic group showed that 96 percent of the respondents disapproved of Kim as the new education minister.

Despite the fierce resistance from the opposition and rising skepticism from the ruling party, Park can still push ahead to finalize Kim’s appointment. But it is questionable whether she will take the risk of going against public opinion with her approval rating slowly declining in the aftermath of the fatal ferry sinking in April.

Later Thursday, the parliament wrapped up the confirmation hearing by questioning culture minister nominee Chung Sung-keun. He apologized for past wrongdoings including drunken driving and posting slanderous remarks toward the opposition lawmakers.

By Yoon Min-sik (minsikyoon@heraldcorp.com)

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