With confirmation hearings for top Cabinet nominees slated for this week, President Moon Jae-in faces yet another showdown with opposition parties in a crucial early test of his leadership which seeks to bring rivals and foes aboard his bold reform agenda.
The National Assembly is scheduled to grill Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister nominee Kim Dong-yeon, Foreign Minister nominee Kang Kyung-wha and Constitutional Court president nominee Kim Yi-su starting Wednesday.
Opposition lawmakers are determined to launch a fiery onslaught in particular against Kang, who has been grappling with a string of allegations of irregularities including her daughter’s dual citizenship and false address registration, belated gift tax payment and real estate speculation.
Foreign Minister nominne Kang Kyung-wha. Yonhap
Her designation was initially met with fanfare, as many citizens and officials relayed hopes for her years of experience as a senior UN diplomat and cracking of the glass ceiling to become the country’s first female foreign minister.
Yet criticism spiked especially after Kang was found to have used the address of the then principal of Ewha Girls’ High School -- her alma mater -- to have her daughter admitted there, a departure from Cheong Wa Dae’s explanation that it was her relative’s house. Kang said that she did not intend to lie, because it was her husband who gave the erroneous information to the presidential office without knowledge of the matter.
The main opposition Liberty Korea Party, minor opposition People’s Party and Bareun Party are nonetheless calling for Kang to remove herself from consideration.
The former two parties have also raised questions about Kim Yi-su’s record as a judge. The far right Liberty Korea Party lambasted his opposition to a 2014 Supreme Court ruling that dismantled the Unified Progressive Party, of which some members were accused of having conspired to support a rebellion.
The left-leaning People’s Party, for its part, took issue about the death sentence he issued as a military judge advocate against a bus driver who helped militiamen resisting the bloody crackdown of Chun Doo-hwan during the May 18 Democratic Uprising in Gwangju.
While few ethical issues have arisen around Kim Dong-yeon, the opposition parties are expected to focus on his role as a top economic policymaker under the Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye administrations that oversaw massive increases in home prices and household debt.
Moon does not need parliamentary approval to appoint Kim Dong-yeon and Kang, but he will face a rough ride in carrying out his agenda including a planned extra budget if he presses ahead without securing sufficient support from opposition parties.
The ruling and opposition parties clashed in previous hearings for Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon and National Intelligence Service director Suh Hoon, both of whom took office last week.
They also failed to publish a joint report on whether to endorse Fair Trade Commission nominee Kim Sang-jo. The Liberty Korea Party is threatening to boycott all future parliamentary sessions should the ruling party and other minor opposition parties endorse the new FTC chief-nominee without its support.