The main opposition Democratic United Party slammed President-elect Park Geun-hye and the ruling Saenuri Party’s move to change the National Assembly’s confirmation hearing process following the prime minister-nominee debacle.
The Saenuri Party formed a task force on Thursday to seek ways to improve the current parliamentary hearing so that it becomes a “place to verify one’s capacity rather than digging into one’s personal background,” Saenuri Party floor spokesman Lee Cheol-woo said.
The announcement came on the same day as Park’s impromptu meeting with the party leadership during which she reportedly asked them to change the rules for an improved hearing process.
The DUP criticized the move as an attempt to damage the rule of law.
“An attempt by Park, who touts constitutionalism, to damage the law on personnel hearing is the same as shaking the fundamentals of the constitutionalism,” said DUP floor spokeswoman Lee Un-ju on Friday.
“We warn the Saenuri Party that any attempt to change the law for the worse physically by abusing its majority power will be met with fierce protest from the DUP and the people.”
Earlier in the week, Kim Yong-joon, Park’s transition committee chairman who was tapped to become the prime minister for her government, withdrew his nomination upon allegations of real estate speculation and irregularities in his sons’ military exemption.
“Problems concerning the high-ranking official’s personal background should be verified through a closed process, while the public session at the National Assembly should focus on policies and professional capacity,” Park was reported as telling the participants. Attending the meeting were Saenuri Party chairman Hwang Woo-yea, floor leader Lee Hahn-koo, and secretary-general Suh Byung-soo.
Park’s secretive personnel selection style where she prioritizes information security over a systematic vetting process has been drawing fire from critics, with rising calls for her to widen her search.
Park’s criticism of the current hearing process conducted at the National Assembly as being evasive further escalated the controversy with the main opposition party slamming Park for blaming the system for her failed appointment.
“It is incomprehensible for (Park) to say there is a problem with the system instead of realizing she needs to make a good selection,” the Democratic United Party said.
Professor Kim Hyung-joon of Myongji University said, “The reason why the Assembly’s hearing degenerates into a verification of one’s ethics is because the preliminary verification is not sufficiently carried out.” He added that the U.S.-type process where ethics-related questions are processed through a closed method was possible because there are various backup systems and a thorough and lengthy preliminary screening.
The White House, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service and other bodies survey 233 items related to a nominee including one’s tax payment, misdemeanors such as traffic violations, and criminal record.
After the hearing session, the appointee is confirmed through two sets of approval votes.
Observers also pointed to the extensive informal discussion between the president and the political leaders in naming candidates.
Meanwhile, fallen nominee Kim released a statement on Friday morning countering the allegations that he and his family have been facing.
“The condemnation that President-elect Park did not properly verify me while naming me as the prime minister-nominee is groundless,” he said, adding that his entire family has been suffering excruciating pain, with some family members even fainting due to shock at the excessive character bashing.
Kim said both of his sons’ exemptions from military service, for being underweight and having suffered from gout, were legitimate, detailing their health struggles. He said his eldest son had weighed 44 kilograms, while he should have weighted at least 45 kilograms for his height of 1 meter and 69 centimeters to join the military.
His second son, who had passed the health exam in 1988, delayed his service to concentrate on his studies after which he suffered from aggravated symptoms of gout that he has had since high school, and that he was ultimately exempted from service in 1994.
Kim also wrote in detail the list of his properties and how he bought them, saying they were all legitimate transactions.
By Lee Joo-hee (email@example.com