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[Newsmaker] Nominee for science ministry in tight spot

Controversy over the appointment of Kim Jeong-hoon as the minister of future creation and science is growing as opposition lawmakers are increasingly questioning his nationality and patriotism.

Kim’s strong track record as an entrepreneur and engineer with a rich education background, was not enough for the opposition Democratic United Party, which argued that it was against the law to appoint someone who has foreign citizenship.
Kim Jeong-hoon
Kim Jeong-hoon

It also raised concerns about Kim’s loyalties, pointing out that he has served in the U.S. military, and worked on an advisory board for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

The opposition started to ask whether Kim would truly stand by Korea, while pointing out that his appointment could lead to possible conflicts with the U.S. over national interests.

Also, Kim’s appointment, even before the two parties’ agreement on the establishment of the Science Ministry, could be interpreted as an act of defiance against the DUP, which has yet to give full support to President-elect Park Geun-hye’s ministerial restructuring, analysts said.

Park envisions the Future Creation and Science Ministry as her “right-hand” agency that will be able to implement her policies to boost jobs and seek new growth engines through science and technology.

As she seeks to increase Korea’s employment rate to 70 percent, the president-elect is empowering the Science Ministry, which some described as a “dinosaur,” or a powerful control tower overseeing IT and fundamental science policy for sustainable economic development.

The media had been playing guessing games as to who would lead this ministry, whose authority would be equal to that of the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, which is considered the “left-hand” agency of the president.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology immediately released statements defending the appointment of Kim, saying that he had given up his American citizenship and restored his Korean nationality to serve his motherland.

The Science Ministry added that his four-year stint as a CIA advisory board member should not pose a problem for Kim in serving as the top science and IT policymaker in Korea.

By Park Hyong-ki (hkp@heraldcorp.com)
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