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Parliamentary committee passes confirmation report on land minister nominee amid protest

Rep. Jin Sun-mee, the chairwoman of the National Assembly's Land, Infrastructure and Transport Committee, passes a confirmation report on Land Minister nominee Byeon Chang-heum during a committee meeting on Monday. (Yonhap)
Rep. Jin Sun-mee, the chairwoman of the National Assembly's Land, Infrastructure and Transport Committee, passes a confirmation report on Land Minister nominee Byeon Chang-heum during a committee meeting on Monday. (Yonhap)
A parliamentary committee on Monday passed a confirmation report on Land Minister nominee Byeon Chang-heum amid fierce protests from the main opposition party.

The Land, Infrastructure and Transport Committee, where the ruling Democratic Party (DP) holds a majority, passed the report on Byeon's recent parliamentary confirmation hearing in a 17-0 vote during its plenary meeting.

Lawmakers of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP), who belong to the committee, however, boycotted the voting and protested the DP-led passage of the confirmation hearing report.

Byeon, the CEO of the state-run housing developer Korea Land & Housing Corp., was tapped earlier this month to replace Land Minister Kim Hyun-mee, amid a public backlash against the government's failure to curb soaring housing prices.

The PPP, however, had denounced Byeon as unfit for the ministerial post and called for his nomination to be withdrawn, citing his past controversial remarks and alleged misdeeds.

At the center of the criticism are remarks he made as the then CEO of Seoul Housing & Communities Corp. (SH), about a 19-year-old service engineer who was killed while repairing a screen door at the subway platform of Guui Station in Seoul in 2016.

Byeon was found to have said during a company meeting after the accident that if that guy had paid a little bit of attention, nothing would have happened.

The remarks drew a huge backlash against Byeon for passing the blame for an apparent industrial accident caused by lack of due safety measures onto an individual worker. Opposition lawmakers also lambasted the nominee for what they called a lack of respect for human dignity and life.

The nominee is also facing other allegations raised by opposition lawmakers, including suspicions of hiring several close alumni from his alma mater, Seoul National University, for senior SH posts in the past.

Following up on the report's passage, President Moon Jae-in is expected to officially appoint Byeon in the near future. (Yonhap)
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