President Yoon Suk-yeol approved Army Gen. Kim Seung-kyum as the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former professor Park Soon-ae (left) to head the Ministry of Education on Monday. (Yonhap)
President Yoon Suk-yeol on Monday appointed the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and minister of education without the parliamentary confirmation process, and nominated a new antitrust watchdog chief.
The presidential office announced that Yoon approved Army Gen. Kim Seung-kyum as the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former professor Park Soon-ae to head the Ministry of Education. He also nominated Song Ok-rial, a professor of law at Seoul National University, as the first chairman of the Fair Trade Commission of his government.
The announcement came shortly after Health Minister nominee Kim Seung-hee, who has been embroiled in political scandal, voluntarily resigned.
Park and Kim were approved without the parliamentary confirmation process after the deadline for the related hearings passed on Wednesday. Though the nominations were made more than a month ago, the nominees have failed to move onto the parliamentary confirmation process as the National Assembly has been stalled for weeks, with the ruling and main opposition parties having failed to compromise on which party would take certain key posts.
This marks the second time that Yoon has approved a nominee without a confirmation hearing, following Kim Chang-ki, head of the National Tax Service.
New JCS chief Kim has served in various key military posts, including as vice Army chief of staff and the head of the 3rd Corps. He most recently served as deputy commander of the South Korea-US Combined Forces Command. Kim, who was nominated for the top military job on May 25, takes over the position to prevent a leadership vacuum for the armed forces.
Professor Song Ok-rial, who was nominated to head the Fair Trade Commission, is known as an authority in the field of commercial law and, like President Yoon, also attended the Judicial Research and Training Institute. He formerly worked as a lawyer at the nation’s largest law firm, Kim & Chang.
Park Soon-ae is a former professor at Seoul National University’s Graduate School of Public Administration. Her nomination sparked controversy as she was caught driving while intoxicated in 2001. She was also accused of mistreating her teaching assistant and forcing students to give evaluations on her classes on the university system in front of her.
Park apologized for the drunk driving, but she denied the allegations related to her time as a professor, labeling them “misunderstandings.”
The nomination of Park was also criticized as she lacks experience in education. Park is a public administration expert who has held posts in public service-related organizations.
She was also accused of inappropriately including her husband in research and academic journals. Park and her husband participated in eight studies together, including research projects and publications. For two of them they received pay from the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Public Administration and Security for their participation.
Health minister nominee steps down
Meanwhile, Kim Seung-hee, who was named to be the health and welfare minister, has decided to step down from the confirmation process.
Kim, a former lawmaker, was accused of using political funds for private interests, such as giving the money out to her aides and other members of her political party while she was part of the National Assembly.
“After being named the nominee for welfare minister, there were criticisms without grounds raised against me and my family’s private lives which are irrelevant to me,” Kim said through an official statement released through the ministry on Monday.
“I have repeatedly explained the allegations were false, based on objective truth, but my dignity which I maintained as a public official has fallen, and my family has been hurt,” Kim said.
Kim also denied the allegations that she used political funds inappropriately.
“Under the current system where the standards of using political funds are ambiguous, there will continue to be controversies related to political funds. I request the National Assembly come up with institutional changes through discussion,” Kim said.
Kim became the third nominee to withdraw from the confirmation process, following the previous nominee for the Welfare Ministry, Chung Ho-young, and Kim In-chul, who was to head the Education Ministry.
In late May, Yoon named Park Soon-ae and Kim Seung-hee as minister nominees following criticism that his Cabinet lacked women.
When asked about speculation that his approval rating has dropped due to his personnel picks, Yoon contended that the “specialty” and “morality” of high-ranking officials in his administration exceeds that of the previous Moon Jae-in administration.
By Shin Ji-hye and Im Eun-byel