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P.M. vacancy raises concern

With the post of South Korea’s prime minister lying vacant for about a month calls are mounting for a new premier to be chosen to end the hiatus in governance as key policies remain deadlocked.

President Park Geun-hye is likely to make her nomination within this week, news reports said, after failing to replace former Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo who resigned last month due to the allegation that he received money from late businessman Sung Woan-jong.

It was reported that the president has been struggling to choose her nominee as most of her picks have stumbled at parliamentary hearings. Among her five nominees, only two, including Lee, were able to assume the office of prime minister.

“I was told that (the president) couldn’t find a nominee who can pass parliamentary hearings,” said Kim Moo-sung, the leader of ruling Saenuri Party, on Tuesday.

“No matter how respected the nominee is, he or she turned out to have had some issues. I believe it is a serious matter,” said Kim.

Meanwhile, the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy criticized the president for keeping the nation’s second-highest post vacant, urging her to pick an individual that can embrace diverse social spectrums.

“The current situation is abnormal,” said NPAD leader Moon Jae-in on Tuesday. “I sincerely suggest that President Park should appoint a candidate who can embrace our nation as opposed to sticking to her old-fashioned nomination style,” Moon said.

Experts said that the president would play safe to avoid yet another nomination failure. They pointed out that she would choose a candidate who has already passed a parliamentary hearing such as incumbent lawmakers and politicians.

“Being able to pass a parliamentary hearing should be the foremost standard,” said political professor Yoon Sung-yi at Kyung Hee University. “In that regard, politicians are good candidates because they have already undergone public scrutiny,” Yoon said.

He added that former judges and prosecutors are unlikely to be nominated, contrary to wide speculation in media reports. He pointed out those candidates who have a legal background ― Kim Young-joon and Ahn Dae-hee, had failed to pass parliamentary hearings.

Another expert asserted that the president should focus on what the next prime minster should do, rather than merely the choice of candidate, as the president enters the third year of her presidency.

“I do not think it matters whether candidates have political or legal backgrounds,” said Kim Hyung-joon, political science professor at Myongji University. “The president should focus on the prime minister’s role. Otherwise, the premiership failure will continue,” Kim said.

By Yeo Jun-suk (