Published : 2013-01-17 19:49
Updated : 2013-01-17 19:49
During his five years of governance, President Lee Myung-bak has frequently selected many people with serious ethical flaws as candidates for top public posts. Why did he do so? Was it because he put loyalty before anything else? It is an enigma.
But one thing is clear. When he did so, he believed the ruling Saenuri Party would provide staunch support for his nominees despite their moral deficiencies.
Among them were those who had avoided being drafted into military service for dubious reasons. Others were suspected of evading taxes while still others reportedly breached the law for ill-gotten gains. Even worse, it was not unusual for Lee’s nominees to have multiple infractions.
When indisputable evidence of breaching the law was presented against them, they made excuses or apologies. If not, they denied the allegations. Either way, almost all of them succeeded in securing the posts they had been nominated for because the ruling party had the National Assembly under its control when their confirmation hearings were held.
Now, the National Assembly is set to hold a confirmation hearing on a person that may turn out to be another such candidate on Monday and Tuesday: Lee Dong-heub, President Lee’s selection for the post of Constitutional Court president. The candidate has a long list of alleged ethical lapses and legal violations.
With the confirmation hearing approaching, one allegation of transgression after another has been reported. One of the most damaging among them is one about his aborted call for corporate contributions to a year-end party he was to host.
When he was chief of the district court in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, in 2005, he reportedly instructed one of the court officials to arrange for Samsung Electronics to provide its products to be used as gifts for a prize draw at the court’s year-end party.
According to a news report, he did this even though he was reminded of the court’s potential conflict of interest with the company, which has assembly lines in Suwon. The report said he gave up the idea when he was warned by other judges that he could be forced out of his job if his ill-considered attempt was made public.
If the report is true, few would say he is qualified for the vaunted post of Constitutional Court president. He denies the allegations.
His qualifications to be president of the Constitutional court would be called into question again, given that he breached the law on resident registration. He registered himself as a resident of Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, for the purchase of a new apartment in 1995.
At the time, however, he did not move to the municipality on the outskirts of Seoul. Instead, he continued to live in Seoul. He reportedly said he did so because he wanted his children to go to the same school.
No less damaging is a demand for an unwarranted privilege that he allegedly demanded when he was a justice of the Constitutional Court in 2008. As a public official, he was required to participate in a government-initiated energy conservation campaign. But he refused to join in.
Instead, he allegedly demanded that the court pay for the gasoline for a commute in his private car when he was not driven in a government car every other day. As he refused to budge, the court had to provide him with a chauffer-driven government car on all weekdays.
His misdeeds do not end there. He is also accused of violating intellectual property rights by publishing a book in his name only even though he had coauthored it with court researchers, evading gift tax and engaging in some other wrongdoings.
It is not just the main opposition Democratic United Party that is up in arms against his appointment to the top post of the Constitutional Court. Activist groups have joined the opposition party in the campaign against him.
Members of the National Assembly, regardless of their affiliation, will now have to delve into all allegations during the upcoming confirmation hearing. It goes without saying that they will have to vote him down if any of the serious allegations is found to be true.
A better solution under these circumstances is for him to give up his nomination on his own. By doing so, he will be able to reduce the damage done to him. Another option is for President Lee to withdraw his nomination.