The anticipated appointment of controversy-ridden Defense Minister-designate Kim Byung-kwan is feeding public skepticism about the usefulness of the parliamentary confirmation process.
Sources said President Park Geun-hye is planning to formally install the former general to the post on Tuesday considering North Korea’s escalated security threats.
The decision came despite a heated confirmation session at the National Assembly on Friday when Kim was grilled by the major parties over a slew of alleged ethical misdeeds.
Kim’s appointment is expected to spur stronger political confrontation as the main opposition Democratic United Party tore into the ruling camp for ignoring public calls against it.
“If President Park names the unqualified man to the high post by using the current emergency situation as an excuse, it will be nothing more than a one-man control that completely overlooks the opposition party and the National Assembly,” said DUP interim leader Moon Hee-sang at a party’s meeting.
Political pundits said the appointment would hurt not only the integrity of the parliament but also the presidential leadership.
“It is common sense to change the relevant laws so that the National Assembly can fulfill its rightful role and properly serve as the legislature that keeps (the government) in check,” said politics professor Kim Hyung-joon of Myongji University.
|Defense Minister-designate Kim Byung-kwan attends his parliamentary confirmation hearing on Friday. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)|
“While naming Kim may be necessary to manage the imminent situation, the president must take steps to persuade and seek understanding from the people for her decision to avoid the long-term burden.”
Observers referred to Park’s earlier remarks. On Feb. 9, 2006, as an opposition party leader, she criticized then-President Roh Moo-hyun’s personnel appointment by stating, “It is problematic that the president does not respect and ignores the legislative purpose of the Cabinet hearing process.”
The Defense Committee failed to endorse a confirmation report for Kim later in the day.
According to the relevant laws, the president can finalize an appointment of a Cabinet member if the 20-day period is passed after the nomination bill is sent to the Assembly and her request for the confirmation report to be sent within a 10-day period is denied, regardless of the parliamentary decision. Park had submitted Kim’s appointment to the Assembly on Feb. 15 and requested the process to be completed by March 11.
Parliamentary hearings applied to such positions as the Supreme Court’s chief justice, the Constitutional Court chief and prime minister expanded to all ministers under the Roh government in 2005.
Kim faces more than 30 different allegations, including real estate speculation, improper registration of residences, unpaid gift taxes and lobbying for a arms company.
His responses during the hearing incited further criticism. When asked about real estate speculation he answered, “I was only successful two times.”
Professor Kim said that if Kim’s designation was finalized, it could also cause the negotiation over the government reorganization to hit a bigger stumbling block.
Park’s personnel appointment style has long been slammed by the critics for being unilateral and uncommunicative.
Before her inauguration, Park’s first choice for her prime minister Kim Yong-joon, then-chairman of the transition committee, voluntarily withdrew from nomination after being hit with a series of allegations of ethical lapses.
Park, meanwhile, handed out official designations for 13 other ministers on Monday, including those for foreign affairs, unification, justice, culture, health, environment, labor, education and commerce.
But many of them were named to the original names of the relevant ministries due to the pending government reorganization bill.
Aside from Kim Byung-kwan, there are three more ministers-designate that await final confirmation. The nominees for finance and maritime affairs are yet to undergo their confirmation hearings, while the seat for the minister for future planning and science remains vacant upon a withdrawal from former nominee Kim Jong-hoon earlier this month.
By Lee Joo-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org