The National Assembly confirmed the appointment of Chung Hong-won as prime minister on Tuesday making the former prosecutor the first endorsed member of President Park Geun-hye’s administration.
Hours later, Park issued him with a certificate of appointment at Cheong Wa Dae.
The new president, sworn in Monday, is struggling to launch her Cabinet amid partisan feuds over her government reorganization plans and some controversial nominees accused of corruption and ethical problems.
Chung’s appointment was confirmed with 197 of the 272 votes cast at the parliament’s plenary session, with 67 opposed and eight invalidated.
Chung is a life-long law professional who began his career in 1972. Chung went on to rise to the highest level within the public prosecutors’ office before opening a law firm in 2004.
Chung also served as the chief of the Saenuri Party’s selection committee in the run up to last year’s general election.
He formerly served as a National Election Commission committee member in 2004, and headed the Korea Legal Aid Corp. from 2008 and 2011.
He was named to the top Cabinet post on Feb. 8 and underwent a three-day confirmation hearing.
Despite criticism of his son’s suspicious exemption from the mandatory military service and privileges the former prosecutor received from a private law firm after retirement, the special confirmation committee described Chung in its report as having the “fundamental qualities and abilities” to serve as prime minister.
The report, however, also included negative views based on allegations of misdeeds that were “not fully explained due to a lack of evidence.”
A number of allegations were brought against him during the hearing.
Chung was accused of engaging in real estate speculation on two separate occasions in 1995 and 1978. Although he has denied the transactions were speculative, the confirmation report states that insufficient evidence was submitted to support Chung’s claims.
The issue of leaving out a building belonging to his wife in the civil servant assets report was also raised in the hearing.
Other allegations brought against Chung included receiving a high salary from a law firm due to his experience as a high-ranking public prosecutor.
The main opposition Democratic United Party meanwhile picked up the attack on President Park Geun-hye’s personnel selection style.
The DUP, which had kept the criticism to a minimum on Monday, honed in on the choices of Yoon Chang-jung and Kim Haing as presidential spokespeople.
“Spokespersons Yoon and Kim could become the wall that separates the president from the public if they do not move away from extreme biases,” DUP spokesman Jung Sung-ho told reporters on Tuesday. The opposition parties had criticized Yoon since his selection as the presidential transition team spokesperson last year citing the former journalist’s vehement attacks on progressive political figures. Yoon further incited criticism while serving as the transition team spokesman for actions that according to the DUP were symbolic of the “anti communication” style of Park’s personnel selection.
The DUP did not limit the criticism to Yoon, saying that the selection process for the presidential secretariat, which includes some of Park’s closest allies, was not being revealed to the public.
“Even if (posts) are not subject to confirmation hearings, the public has the right to verify high-level Cheong Wa Dae officials.”
The revised Government Organization Act also continues to float with the two main political parties deadlocked over which administrative body will be placed in charge of broadcasting-related issues.
The ruling Saenuri Party has stuck to the plans to transfer related issues to the Ministry of Future Planning and Science, which will be established if the revision is approved, from the Korea Communications Commission. The DUP has refused the plans saying that the change will damage the independence of broadcasting.
With negotiations falling apart, the DUP called on the president to take steps to resolve the situation.
“If President Park loosens the brakes, (the issue) can be resolved in one shot,” DUP floor leader Park Ki-choon said. The DUP has claimed that the Saenuri Party has been ordered by Park to keep the initial government reorganization plans intact.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org