The Korea Herald


Repeated nomination failures plague Lee

By 김소현

Published : Jan. 12, 2011 - 18:54

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Chung Tong-ki withdrew his nomination as the chairman of the Board of Audit and Inspection on Wednesday, becoming the eighth top official designate to step down during the Lee Myung-bak presidency.

The repeated withdrawals indicate the remaining gap between the presidential office and the public in their expectations for senior office holders.

The Lee administration made requests for parliamentary approval on 60 nominees so far and eight of them have dropped out, whereas only two out of 58 nominees under the former Roh Moo-hyun administration stepped down. All Cabinet members are required to go through confirmation hearings at the National Assembly since the Roh administration.

The withdrawal of Lee’s picks for the prime minister and ministers of knowledge economy and culture last August dealt a blow to the president who sought a fresh start with a new Cabinet for the second half of his five-year tenure.

Kim Tae-ho stepped down as prime minister nominee over suspicions that he received kickbacks from a jailed businessman Park Yeon-cha based in South Gyeongsang Province which Kim governed for two consecutive terms. Kim reversed his statements about his ties to Park at the parliamentary confirmation hearing, hurting his credibility. 
Kim Tae-ho Kim Tae-ho

Lee Jae-hoon resigned as minister designate of knowledge economy amid criticism against his wife’s real estate speculation in a shanty neighborhood scheduled for redevelopment. Shin Jae-min gave up his nomination as culture minister over repeated violation of the address registration law and having his wife earn a salary from his friend’s company.
Lee Jae-hoon Lee Jae-hoon
Shin Jae-min Shin Jae-min

In 2009, Prosecutor General nominee Chun Sung-gwan withdrew over allegations that he had a financial sponsor. 
Chun Sung-gwan Chun Sung-gwan

When Lee made his first nominations for the Cabinet in February 2008, three of the minister nominees ― Nam Joo-hong of unification, Park Eun-kyung of environment and Lee Choon-ho of gender equality ― dropped out as they were accused of property speculation.
Nam Joo-hong Nam Joo-hong
Lee Choon-ho Lee Choon-ho

Observers attribute the high probability of President Lee’s nomination failures to his tendency to pick from a limited pool of close associates whom he has worked with and the lack of an extensive filtering process.

Only the president, his chief of staff and secretary for personnel affairs get involved in selecting the candidates.

Other senior presidential aides are informed of the choices just before the official announcement for security reasons. Even the senior secretary to the president for civil affairs, who is responsible for verifying the nominees’ qualifications, doesn’t get to see the whole picture until the last minute.

The presidential office introduced an internal confirmation hearing system last year, but those on the in-house panel had no time to go over Chung’s eligibility, as they learned of his nomination only a few hours before it was officially announced.

This means there is no vetting of nominees from a political point of view of their suitability, public reputation or the possibility of passing the parliamentary hearing.

Under former administrations, the top presidential aide for political affairs, chief of policy staff and even members of the ruling party’s supreme council knew who were on the list of candidates and were therefore able to screen them.

Lee’s office, however, has been secretive about the candidates for fear of disgracing those who failed to get nominated in the final stage.

By Kim So-hyun (