Parliamentary confirmation hearings start Wednesday for three minister nominees at the center of a qualification controversy.
Opposition parties have demanded they withdraw their nominations, while the ruling Democratic Party of Korea has said it is a political offensive.
But suspicions about them look too serious to call the demand as political attacks. Suspicions are related to the job responsibilities they are supposed to take if appointed.
Suspicions raised thus far seem enough to doubt they are eligible as public servants, much less as ministers.
Deputy Prime Minister for Social Affairs and Education Minister nominee Kim Sang-kon has rarely penned research papers for 27 years as a professor.
And all three papers he wrote are involved in a plagiarism controversy.
More worrisome than his plagiarism is his dubious view on the democratic state system.
In a meeting of liberal civic groups in 2005, he read their declaration, which called for the withdrawal of US troops from Korea and the renunciation of the Korea-US alliance. He also said in a speech to students of an online university in 2007, “Let’s refuse the shackles of capital and imagine socialism.”
Suspicions about Defense Minister nominee Song Young-moo are snowballing.
He is suspected of having covered up the military investigation into a naval supply contract when he served as the Navy’s top commander in 2007. He was paid 1.2 billion won ($1.05 million) in advisory fees from a large law firm and a defense contractor for “special advice” to help their business as former chief of naval operations.
Even though it may be hard to blame him for earning tremendous advisory fees after retirement, his suspected concealment of the investigation is nothing to sneeze at.
He has registered fake addresses four times. He is suspected of having influenced a defense technology agency into hiring his daughter.
It is questionable if he is qualified to eliminate defense industry grafts, which President Moon Jae-in vowed to root out.
Employment and Labor Minister nominee Cho Dae-yop is suspected of being involved in a back pay scandal. A company he partly owned has been late in paying wages, and its employees have lodged an overdue wage claim with a district labor office. He violated regulations by doubling as an outside director for the company and a professor. Cho was also caught driving drunk in 2007.
Given these suspicions, there is no wonder that opposition parties demand the withdrawal of their nominations.
Yet it is legal if Moon can appoint them, ignoring parliamentary objections. Fair Trade Commission Chairman Kim Sang-jo and Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha are a case in point.
Moon appointed Kim and Kang after opposition parties objected, saying he will leave the final judgment to the people. By this he meant his appointments have been justified by his high approval ratings.
He should not make a mockery of confirmation hearings, citing popular support for him.
Disregarding objections from opposition lawmakers runs counter to the spirit of the Constitution, such as the separation of power and checks and balances.
It is understandable that Moon had to break his own criteria on nonimee qualifications to fill vacancies as soon as possible because there was no transition period and little vetting time. Yet the five criteria he set forth are not so difficult to abide by. They are qualifications people who live with healthy thoughts and common sense could meet. He should have searched candidates from a wider pool of talents.
If he crumbles his own principles and appoints those close to him or those who helped his campaign, confirmation hearings will exist in name only.
It is contradictory for Moon to appoint a person under serious suspicions as a senior official who should eliminate evils, even as he has pledged to get rid of them.
Confirmation hearings are not a minor formality to sound the parliament out.
If Moon appoints ineligible nominees despite strong objections, he could hardly expect opposition parties to cooperate with him over other issues.
Suspicions should be resolved in hearings, but nominees need to reflect on their shortcomings and think what they could do to help Moon run state affairs well.