Concerns are rising that the vetting process for nominees for high-level government posts may be veering off course without agreed upon ethical standards and procedures.
President-elect Park Geun-hye’s pick of the prime minister, Kim Yong-joon, withdrew from the nomination Tuesday in the face of allegations about his real estate investments and his two sons’ exemption of military service.
While the developments initially led to criticism of the president-elect’s secretive vetting process, the skewed weighting given to ethics is fueling worries that otherwise capable individuals will be kept out of office.
“There is a problem in our confirmation hearing system subjecting (candidates) to rough questioning reminiscent of criminal interrogations,” Park was quoted as saying at a meeting with Saenuri Party lawmakers Wednesday,
“Confirmation hearings should focus on professional capabilities but (the system) may be going in the wrong direction.”
The president-elect is also reported to have said that issues concerning candidates’ private lives and character should be protected.
Kim, Park’s transition committee chief, resigned as a prime ministerial nominee after a large number of allegations casting doubts on his ethical standards, especially relating to speculative real estate investment and irregularities in the process of his sons being judged unfit for military service.
Similar standards were applied in the confirmation hearing for Constitutional Court presidential candidate Lee Dong-heub. While Lee has not disproved the allegation of misuse of public funds, other claims, such as that Lee falsely reported the cost of an overseas business trip for financial gain, have been proven false.
As such, those being contacted by Park are reluctant to take government posts.
According to reports, a number of individuals offered ministerial positions in the Park Geun-hye administration declined, citing concerns for the confirmation hearing that often puts the activities of the candidates’ families under scrutiny as well as the ethicality and capabilities of the candidates.
The opposition parties hit back at Park saying that she needed to employ a more efficient vetting system before blaming the system.
“In a word, the president-elect’s perception is worrying and the disparity with the public’s view is highly disconcerting,” Democratic United Party spokesman Park Yong-jin said. He added that Kim’s resignation came before the start of the confirmation hearing, and that the media had simply collected already disclosed information.
“The reason for the prime ministerial candidate’s resignation is not within the confirmation system or opposition lawmakers’ tough vetting process but with President-elect Park who made the nomination without subjecting the person concerned to a proper vetting process.”
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org