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Chief prosecutor nominee denies suspected wrongdoing at hearing

The chief prosecutor nominee faced tough questions at a confirmation hearing on Thursday over his ethical qualifications for the job, including allegations that he dodged the mandatory military service.

President Lee Myung-bak appointed Han Sang-dae, the current chief of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office, to replace Kim Joon-gyu, who quit in early July in protest of the parliament's passage of a judicial reform bill he saw as favoring police.

During the confirmation hearing held at the National Assembly, opposition lawmakers bombarded the 52-year-old Han with questions about whether he attempted to evade the mandatory military service in the early 1980s by receiving back surgery. He flatly denied the allegation, saying the operation was necessary.

All able-bodied South Korean young men must serve about two years in the military, a duty considered a key ethical requirement for high-level officeholders and politicians.

However, Han offered an apology for falsely changing his home address to send his two daughters to prestigious schools in an affluent region.

"I deeply regret it," Han said. "In light of this, I will take care of my personal and family affairs more thoroughly."

Although the confirmation hearing is widely seen as a formality as the National Assembly has no power to reject the president's appointment, several nominees gave up their nominations in the past after facing criticism over allegations of past wrongdoing during the hearing.

Last year, three Cabinet nominees, including Prime Minister appointee Kim Tae-ho, voluntarily withdrew from their appointments after facing harsh questions by opposition parties over their ethical lapses. (Yonhap News)

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