The parties had resisted their appointment citing ethical breaches that Moon had said would preclude people from top posts during the campaign.
Following the president’s remark, and peace-making gestures in the legislature by his aides, the Bareun Party and the People’s Party withdrew their objections, making it likely that Prime Minister nominee Lee Nak-yon will be approved in a parliamentary floor vote on Wednesday.
|President Moon Jae-in (Yonhap)|
But the biggest conservative group, the Liberty Korea Party, continued to voice its opposition.
“I have no intention of damaging the basic principles (of prioritizing integrity when selecting high-profile government officials),” the president said during his weekly meeting with secretariat members.
“I only ask for the opposition lawmakers’ and the people’s understanding over the fact that (the Moon administration) did not have the time to set up tangible rules (before making personnel announcements.)”
Prime Minister nominee Lee had come under fire for falsely registering a residential address in the past. Foreign Minister nominee Kang Kyung-wha and Fair Trade Commission Chairman nominee Kim Sang-jo were accused of similar wrongdoings.
The Resident Registration Act states that one may be sentenced to a maximum term of three years or a fine of 10 million won ($8,900) for falsely reporting one’s address. The key purpose of the regulation was to deter excessive real estate speculation, something high-profile public servant nominees have often been accused of in the past.
In Lee’s case, his wife had temporarily changed her address, as she sought to get a job as an art teacher in a preferred high school in Seoul.
Although deemed less serious compared to other cases of corruption, such incidents seemed to contradict the principle’s President Moon campaigned on.
Moon had asserted that high-profile government posts should be denied to those involved in five types of corruption, including false residence registration.
“I (still) believe that this rule is highly important in order to build a fair society. But what I said was a principle and for this to take effect in reality, we need more detailed standards,” Moon said.
“Had there been a transition committee, we would have drawn detailed rules on personnel appointment in advance (before inauguration) but due to the lack of time and the consequently pressing schedule, the appointments came to face disputes.”
President Moon took office on May 10, without a transition period right after the May 9 election, to fill in state leadership that had remained vacant since former President Park Geun-hye’s ouster by impeachment on March 10.
Earlier in the morning, Senior Presidential Secretary for Political Affairs Jun Byung-hun made his way to the National Assembly to talk with Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun and floor leaders of four parties.
“It is true that the prime minister appointment was made in a hurry as we were trying to minimize the vacuum (in state affairs),” Jun said in the meeting, offering an apology to the participants.
This was the second apologetic gesture from Cheong Wa Dae, following that by presidential chief of staff Im Jong-seok on Friday.
With the inauguration of the Moon government, pressure escalated on the appointment of a new prime minister. With predecessor Hwang Kyo-ahn out of the position, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Yoo Il-ho, who is also set to step down, is heading the Cabinet.
The centrist People’s Party, which holds 40 out of the 299 parliamentary seats, embraced the president’s gestures.
“While Lee has some problems, our party decided to cooperate in the appointment process,” said floor leader Kim Dong-cheol, urging the president to show some responsible actions hereafter.
The minority conservative Bareun Party, too, gestured its consent for the nominations, though it also criticized the president, accusing him of inconsistency.
The main opposition Liberty Korea Party, however, held its ground and set to deter the prime minister’s appointment.
“Our party platform is to refuse Lee’s appointment as prime minister,” said the party’s acting chief and floor leader Rep. Chung Woo-taik.
“We are only asking the president to keep the promise he himself had made.”
Despite the brawl over the president’s personnel decisions, public sentiment remained largely in support of the new state leader over the weekend.
According to a survey released by pollster Realmeter on Monday, those in favor of President Moon’s state administration stood at 84.1 percent, up 2.5 percentage points from the previous week.
By Bae Hyun-jung (email@example.com) and Jo He-rim (firstname.lastname@example.org)