Witnesses summoned to Prime Minister nominee Hwang Kyo-ahn’s confirmation hearing Wednesday denied having key knowledge on multiple allegations against Hwang as opposition lawmakers struggled to highlight strong enough grounds to object the final appointment.
Prospects for a smooth confirmation, however, remained murky as the opposition vowed to fight the ruling party’s plan to approve Hwang’s nomination Friday at the plenary session, citing “insufficient explanation and insincere responses.”
Witnesses attending the last day of the hearing included the medical officer who OKed Hwang’s exemption from military service in 1980, the senior attorney for law firm Bae, Kim & Lee LLC who had overseen Hwang’s work as a lawyer, and civil officials who served under Hwang.
Hwang faces allegations that he pretended to have a rare case of hives to avoid military service. He also faces allegations of lawyering cases under the jurisdiction of local prosecutors’ offices that he had once headed, in violation of conflict of interest rules.
Former opposition lawmaker Roh Hoi-chan (right) answers questions as a witness during the confirmation hearing of Prime Minister nominee Hwang Kyo-ahn at the National Assembly on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
Most witnesses repeated what Hwang had offered as explanation to the opposition’s claims or reiterated, “I do not know.”
Opposition lawmakers expressed frustration at the answers and threatened to boycott the final vote on Hwang’s appointment. They added they could not vote on Hwang as he refused to provide papers disproving allegations of ethical lapses.
“So far, we can only say that (Hwang) is not fit to serve as the next prime minister,” main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy floor leader Rep. Lee Jong-kul said earlier Wednesday.
But ruling Saenuri Party officials argued that the opposition’s lack of evidence disproved the allegations against Hwang. Saenuri floor leader Rep. Yoo Seong-min added that his party would hold a vote on Hwang’s nomination “hopefully by (this Friday).”
The Saenuri Party holds 160 of the unicameral National Assembly’s 298 seats.
Meanwhile, Roh Hoi-chan, a former lawmaker of the minor opposition Justice Party, was an exception to the witnesses’ silence. Roh repeated allegations that Hwang had tried to cover up the so-called Samsung X-file case in 2005, while serving as the case’s lead prosecutor.
Government intelligence officials had allegedly recorded a scene showing prosecutors taking bribes from Samsung officials. But Hwang, the lead prosecutor probing the case, had indicted only Roh, the lawmaker who had leaked the scandal to the press.
Roh received a suspended one-year sentence, and lost his parliamentary seat.
“The case greatly hurt the public’s trust in state prosecutors, and also the public’s trust in officialdom,” Roh said. “I do not agree that Hwang is fit to serve as a leader of any anticorruption drive.”
By Jeong Hunny (firstname.lastname@example.org