Justice Minister nominee Park Beom-kye responds to reporters as he heads to his office in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)
Opposition lawmakers were geared up to use Monday’s confirmation hearing for Justice Minister nominee Park Beom-kye to their fullest advantage by bashing him over numerous issues, including his failure to declare some of his assets.
The opposition’s offensive in the series of hearings for ministerial nominees since last week has mainly focused on Park, who himself rose to confirmation hearing stardom in 2014. As a first-time lawmaker at the time, Park raised allegations that the authorities had overlooked a major case of tax evasion by an actor during a hearing for the national tax agency chief.
President Moon Jae-in named Park, a former judge and three-term lawmaker, last month as successor to Choo Mi-ae, who offered to resign after months of conflict with Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl.
Cho Kuk, the justice minister before Choo, had stepped down in October 2019 after about a month in office over allegations of illicit business activities and document forgery involving his family.
The main opposition People Power Party has branded Park as unfit, pointing to suspicions that he assaulted a person who approached him for help four years ago and that he abetted election law violations by his aides, as well as the fact that he is a defendant in an ongoing criminal case.
The People Power Party has also blasted the ruling Democratic Party for refusing all of its requests for witnesses in the parliamentary hearing. People Power Party lawmakers on the judiciary committee said last week that they will push for their own hearing for Park.
Park was indicted a year ago on charges of assaulting opposition party officials during a scuffle in April 2019 as opposition lawmakers occupied parliamentary committee meeting rooms to physically stop the ruling party from fast-tracking electoral and prosecutorial reform bills.
Park said the indictment was a shameful act on the prosecution’s part.
The lawmaker stood trial over the accusation Sept. 23 and Nov. 25, and is set to appear in court again this Wednesday.
Should Park take office immediately after the confirmation hearing, he could be the country’s first incumbent justice minister to stand in court as a defendant.
Park’s lawyers requested a change of trial date last week.
In another case, a group of people preparing to take the bar exam claimed that Park grabbed one of them by the collar and hurled abuse at them when they approached him in November 2016 to request his assistance.
They filed a complaint against Park with the prosecution on charges of libel and abuse of power, saying he defamed them recently by claiming he was the one who almost got attacked.
The People Power Party denounced Park last week for his failure to declare his plot of land, apartment and bank deposit when he took office as a legislator, as well as his wife’s condominium.
People Power Party spokesperson Kim Ye-ryoung said last week that Park appears to have intentionally omitted some of his assets in his financial disclosure as a legislator.
She also mentioned that the nation’s human rights watchdog had begun looking into a civic group’s complaint that Park’s remarks during a lecture to high school students in 2012 sexually humiliated the students.
According to government documents submitted to Rep. Cho Soo-jin of the People Power Party, Park’s vehicles were impounded on seven occasions between 2002 and last month for traffic and parking violations.
A weekly tabloid also reported suspicions that Park pulled strings to get his associate hired at a law firm.
By Kim So-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org