The National Assembly on Wednesday endorsed Lee Nak-yon as prime minister, allowing President Moon Jae-in to fill the No. 2 post amid a prolonged state management vacuum.
Lee, a former provincial governor nominated for the job on May 10, the first day of Moon in office, received 164 votes out of 188 cast at the plenary session on Wednesday afternoon. Some 107 lawmakers of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party lawmakers boycotted the vote, while some 20 voted to disapprove.
Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon meets the press after his nomination was approved by the National Assembly on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
“I express gratitude to the lawmakers across the aisle for approving me, as the first prime minister (for the new administration),” Lee wrote in his Facebook post after the parliament voting. “I will put my utmost effort to fulfill my duty.”
He took oath of office about two hours after the endorsement at an inauguration ceremony in Seoul.
During his confirmation hearings, the former South Jeolla Province governor had come under fire for a series of allegations, which included his wife falsely registering a residential address in the past.
Three opposition parties -- the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, Bareun Party and People’s Party -- strongly opposed him over his ethical breaches, talking issue with Moon’s pledge during election campaigning.
President Moon had previously set out five areas of misconduct -- using false address, illegally avoiding military service, tax evasion, plagiarism and real estate speculation -- that would prevent anyone from taking a senior post in his administration.
People’s Party changed its stance to support Lee, after the president made a direct message to lawmakers seeking their “understanding.”
The LKP called the passage of Lee’s appointment “unilateral and one-sided.”
“Many of our lawmakers agree that we should do something about the arbitrary government. I doubt there would be any cooperative interactions between the government and the opposition parties, looking at the current circumstance,” the party’s interim chief and floor leader Chung Woo-taik said.
Before the plenary session begin, the conservative lawmakers rallied outside the assembly hall, holding signs reading, “Withdraw the nomination, Lee Nak-yon should resign,” and chanting the phrases in unison.
Floor leader Chung and a few others from the party had also visited the National Assembly Speaker Chung Se-kyun to request not to put the nomination on vote. It delayed the plenary session that was scheduled at 2 p.m. by an hour and a half.
They had also called for President Moon take back nomination for Foreign Minister nominee Kang Kyung-wha and Fair Trade Commission Chairman nominee Kim Sang-jo for their records of false residence registration in the past.
Earlier in the day, the parliamentary penal adopted the report on Lee’s confirmation hearing, as the staunch conservative lawmakers refused to accept and left the meeting mid-way.
“Having an abundant experience in politics, administrations and media, he is capable of resolving state issues such as regional development and the economy,” the hearing report read. “He also manifested strong will to lead a cooperative government by communicating with all parties.”
The committee also pointed at some of the limitations and allegations surrounding the candidate. “There have been negative opinions about the nominee for his wife’s registering of false residency and other unlawful actions that goes against the new government’s previous stance on corruption.”
On the same day, Suh Hoon was also designated as the chief of the National Intelligence Agency on Wednesday, as the parliamentary information committee adopted the confirmation hearing report. Suh’s appointment does not require a floor vote.
By Jo He-rim (email@example.com)