|Kweon Seong-dong. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)|
A two-track parliamentary confirmation system will protect the rights of ministerial nominees and ensure thorough vetting, says Rep. Kweon Seong-dong of the ruling Saenuri Party.
“In many cases a candidate never takes office. Disclosing such people’s personal details is an invasion of privacy,” Kweon said.
“As the issues concerning ethicality are linked to privacy, these matters should remain undisclosed (to the public). And the vetting process should be made more thorough and the results shared among concerned lawmakers.”
Under the plans suggested by the ruling party, ethics-related issues of a candidate will be handled behind closed doors, and those judged fit will go on to the second stage where his or her professional qualifications will be dealt with.
Kweon also pointed out that detailed information about a candidate’s family is also revealed during the parliamentary hearing, and that their privacy must be protected.
As for the Democratic United Party’s opposition to the plan, Kweon said that it was a political maneuver. He said that the opposition was looking to benefit from highlighting the government’s faults.
He added that if the DUP is unwilling to compromise, the Saenuri Party could concede to disclosing information such as military service and financial records of those whose nominations are approved.
Kweon dismissed the claims that the Saenuri Party and President-elect Park Geun-hye’s dislike of the current system amounts to a disregard for the need for strict ethical standards, saying that morality is the most fundamental trait required in a public servant.
He went on to say that ethical standards the society demands in a civil servant had risen dramatically over the years, and that applying today’s standards to events that occurred in the past is inappropriate.
“The standards have changed over the years. Many things that are illegal and considered immoral were accepted as norms in the past,” Kweon said.
He added that while the public sector has become more transparent and civil servants more careful about their activities since the introduction of the system, there needs to be a standard for how many years back into a candidate’s past the hearing will look into.
“There is no standard for assessing a candidate’s ethics. Sometimes falsely changing the registered address is made into a big deal, sometimes it’s not. There is no consistency.”
Changing the registered address without changing the place of residence is a tactic commonly used in Korea to make speculative real estate investments or to become a resident of an area with high educational standards.
Kweon says that politicians’ desire for media exposure is another reason for keeping a part of the confirmation process undisclosed.
“Politicians want to be heard, and as the media report sensational claims, sometimes lawmakers make unconfirmed claims,” Kweon said.
“Even when the claims are shown to be false, and the candidate takes office, the claims often become shackles for them throughout their term.”
Kweon also insists that systemic shortcomings have led to the parliamentary hearing process losing its original purpose, saying that a hearing is meant to be a platform for listening to a candidate’s visions and philosophies in order to judge whether he or she is fit for office.
“The system has deteriorated to a platform for lawmakers’ opinions. They scold and jump to conclusions, and leave only five or 10 seconds for answers. This is an interrogation, not a hearing,” Kweon said.
“Opposition lawmakers in particular don’t give the candidates the time to respond. There is a need to ensure same amount of time for questioning and answering by law.”
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)