Published : 2013-01-29 19:55
Updated : 2013-01-29 19:55
A suspicious exemption from military service, let alone a downright draft evasion, is a great liability for people in pursuit of public office. Public opinion is so intolerant of what is seen to be an unjustifiable exemption that even conscientious objection is not legally permitted.
The odds are stacked against not just those directly involved but those whose children are under suspicion. One such case involved a presidential nominee of the ruling Saenuri Party’s predecessor, whose son was declared exempt from active duty, allegedly because he was underweight. When he was defeated in the 1997 election, his son’s failure to serve in the military was counted as one of the causes.
Now put under the microscope are cases involving the two sons of Prime Minister-designate Kim Yong-joon ― the older one exempted from active duty for being underweight in 1989 and the younger one for suffering from gout in 1994. Riding on public sentiment against their exemptions, the main opposition Democratic United Party vows to delve deep into the cases. Suspicions are already raised about the possibility of the older son having reduced his weight ahead of a physical examination.
The military service exemptions are not the only vexing problem for Kim, whom President-elect Park Geun-hye said she designated as her prime minister because he has maintained integrity and has been held in high regard in the legal profession. But suspicions are raised about the integrity of the prime minister-designate, who served as a justice of the Supreme Court and president of the Constitutional Court. The cases in point are the underage acquisition of properties by his two sons.
At the age of 7 in 1974, the older son acquired a large plot of land in a mountainous region for 160 million won. The next year, he acquired a house and a plot of land in Seoul, together with his brother, for 1.98 trillion won. Kim said the purchases were made with what their sons inherited from his mother. Now the question is whether or not his mother paid the relevant taxes.
If any of the suspicions prove to be true at a confirmation hearing, it is not just his appointment that is at stake. In addition to undermining Kim’s touted integrity, it will also drain much of President-elect Park’s political capital. Then, it will not be the ruling party alone that will ask why Kim’s background was not thoroughly checked before he was designated prime minister.