Moon hit hard by opposition backlash over FM appointment

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Jun 19, 2017 - 16:11
  • Updated : Jun 19, 2017 - 17:56
Three opposition parties, while fuming over President Moon Jae-in's appointment of the foreign minister against their rejection, pondered their next move on pending key issues, stalling parliamentary proceedings Monday.

The liberal president also faltered in job approval last week, amid burgeoning disputes on the state chief’s personnel decisions and the appointment processes.

The National Assembly’s Education, Culture, Sports and Tourism Committee and the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Committee both had to hold off their scheduled meeting on Monday morning, upon the request of opposition party members.

The confirmation hearing for Deputy Prime Minister for Social Affairs and Education Minister nominee Kim Sang-gon and the endorsement of Land Minister nominee Kim Hyun-mee were consequently halted.

President Moon Jae-in (Yonhap)

The committees geared up to convene again within the week to follow up on the ministerial confirmation, but prospects remained dim as the three leading opposition parties vowed to boycott parliamentary committee activities for a while.

The key trigger was the president’s move to appoint nominee Kang Kyung-wha as foreign minister on the previous day, despite the lack of parliamentary consensus.

Kang thus became the fifth minister to take office under the Moon administration, while nine other ministerial nominees are awaiting their confirmation hearing or the endorsement of their report.

“We decided to take a cooling-off period as a sign of protest against President Moon’s forceful appointment of a disqualified nominee (as foreign minister),” Rep. Chung Woo-taik, interim chief and floor leader of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, told reporters.

The hard-line conservative party will thus be absenting itself from all parliamentary committee meetings, and the minor conservative Bareun Party is to follow suit.

The centrist People’s Party, though it denied the possibility of an outright boycott, urged the president to issue a statement on the matter.

“Unless the president indicates his stance on the unilateral appointment of Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, the People’s Party may not step out actively in parliamentary affairs,” said floor spokesperson Rep. Choi Myung-ghil.

Even Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun, a former lawmaker of the president‘s home party, cautioned Cheong Wa Dae not to play down the significance of parliamentary consent when appointing Cabinet members.

“It is desirable that the parties' opinions are conveyed in the procedural framework, and the appointer respects (the results),” Chung said during a meeting with the floor leaders of the ruling and opposition parties.

Such reproach weighed down upon the state chief who, having taken office after his ousted predecessor Park Geun-hye, vowed to achieve cooperative governance and to reach out across the political aisle.

The ruling liberal Democratic Party of Korea, along with the minority progressive Justice Party, chastised the three opposition parties for provoking a quarrel while there are bigger diplomatic issues to attend to.

“President Moon and the Democratic Party will refuse to give up on the cooperative governance with the opposition,” said chief Rep. Choo Mi-ae in a party meeting.

“(Moon’s appointment of Kang) was an inevitable choice which had to be made, considering key schedules such as the Korea-US summit and the Group of 20 summit.”

The president is set for a visit to Washington D.C. late next week for a first-ever summit with US counterpart Donald Trump to reconfirm the bilateral alliance amid persisting concerns on North Korea‘s military provocations and the consequent deployment of an anti-missile system on the peninsula.

The ruling party chief also defended Moon from the opposition’s blitz over Justice Minister nominee Ahn Kyong-whan who resigned last Friday amid burgeoning disputes over his ethical lapses.

“It is inappropriate for the opposition to find fault with the Moon government’s personnel decision in general, seeking to shun the extensive reforms of the prosecution and the foreign office.”

Despite explanations of the Blue House and the defense of the ruling party, the Ahn scandal delivered an impact upon Moon‘s political momentum.

According to a survey conducted by Realmeter from Monday to Friday last week, 75.6 percent of the respondents gave positive appraisal over Moon’s government administration, down 3.3 percentage points from the previous week.

The fall was the most conspicuous on Friday, the day after embattled nominee Ahn came under fire for forging his marriage registration without the consent of his then-girlfriend, the pollster explained.

By Bae Hyun-jung (