The National Assembly grilled President Park Geun-hye’s nominees to head three government ministries Wednesday, centering on their ethical standards and past misdeeds.
During his confirmation hearing, Yoo Jin-ryong, the nominee to head the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, apologized to the public after he conceded that his wife had falsely registered her residential address in 1988, a widely used practice to purchase extra property or have children attend prominent schools.
His wife allegedly earned 28 million won in profit from the sale of an apartment which she registered as a residency but did not dwell in.
The nominee said it was a simple mistake and denied allegations that the falsification was intended for real estate speculation.
He also faced allegations of receiving special treatment in return for yielding influence over his former government subordinates.
Yoo received an abnormally high salary when he became a professor after serving as the deputy secretary general for planning and management of the culture ministry, and also received research from the same ministry to fund his academic research.
Yoo Jeong-bok, nominee to head the Ministry of Safety and Public Administration, apologized for illegally receiving tax refunds for his donation to the ruling Saenuri Party. He said it was his subordinate’s mistake and he returned the payment to the tax authorities on Tuesday.
Lawmakers also criticized him for acting as the middleman on behalf of a local businessman named Han currying favors to expand the construction of a golf practice range in Gimpo-si, Gyeonggi-do.
Yoo was found to have arranged a meeting in 2009 between Han and the high-ranking military official who held the seal of approval for the expansion.
Because the area in question is surrounded by high-security military facilities, the official declined the request and handed back the gifts he received from Han, and later reported the incident to the Defense Security Command, which prompted an investigation by the National Intelligence Service.
Yoo also sparked controversy when he refused to answer a preliminary question ahead of the confirmation hearing asking his views on the military coup staged by President Park Geun-hye’s father, late President Park Chung-hee, on May 16, 1961.
The question, prepared by Rep. Kim Hyun of the main opposition Democratic United Party, asked if Yoo viewed the incident as a “military coup, or a revolution.” Yoo replied that “I seek your understanding that as a candidate to head the ministry on safety and public administration, it is difficult for me to answer.”
During last year’s presidential campaign, Park described the incident as “violating the values of the Constitution and delaying South Korea’s political development” and apologized on behalf of her father.
Park’s nominee to head the Ministry of Environment, Yoon Seong-kyu, denied accusations of engaging in academic plagiarism, tax evasion and his son’s evasion of the mandatory military service.
By Samuel Songhoon Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)