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Screening process begins to pick anti-corruption agency chief

Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae shakes hands with Cho Jae-youn, head of the National Court Administration, during a meeting held to choose two finalists who will head the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials at the National Assembly in Seoul, Friday.  (Yonhap)
Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae shakes hands with Cho Jae-youn, head of the National Court Administration, during a meeting held to choose two finalists who will head the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials at the National Assembly in Seoul, Friday.  (Yonhap)
The screening process to select two finalists who are qualified to head an envisioned anti-corruption agency that will investigate high-ranking government officials has begun Friday amid fierce partisan strife.

A seven-member panel of government officials and outside experts will choose two candidates out of 10 legal professionals they recommended to be the first chief of the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials, or CIO.

During a day-long meeting, the panel members reviewed personal information of the candidates including how wealthy they are and whether they completed their mandatory military service.

The two final candidates need endorsements from six of the seven panel members, including two designated by the main opposition People Power Party.

Then, President Moon Jae-in will appoint one candidate for a parliamentary confirmation hearing.

The main opposition and ruling Democratic Party of Korea have been in conflict over the political neutrality of candidates endorsed by each side.

One of the 10 candidates -- Seok Dong-hyun, former chief of Busan District Prosecutors’ Office, stirred up controversy when he described the CIO as a “monstrous institution that should not be born,” via his Facebook on Nov. 10.

The political leanings of Jeon Jong-min, who was recommended by the ruling party, was drawn into question as he represented Rep. Choi Kang-wook of the Open Democratic Party, who faces trials on charges of violating the public election law.

The ruling Democratic Party of Korea repeated its call for a swift decision to be made in order to complete the launch of the CIO before the end of the month.

“We have to consider other options if a parliamentary confirmation hearing cannot be held this month in the event that the meeting ends without any progress,” the party’s spokesman Choi In-ho said.

By Park Han-na (hnpark@heraldcorp.com)
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