Controversial PM nominee finally withdraws

June 24, 2014
The face of troubled Prime Minister nominee Moon Chang-keuk is seen between closing elevator doors. He finally withdrew his name Tuesday.

The face of troubled Prime Minister nominee Moon Chang-keuk is seen between closing elevator doors. He finally withdrew his name Tuesday.

SEOUL (Yonhap) — South Korea’s prime minister nominee withdrew his name Tuesday (KST) amid mounting criticism of his alleged pro-Japanese views, in what is seen as a fresh blow to President Park Geun-hye’s efforts to contain the fallout from a deadly ferry sinking.

Moon Chang-keuk’s withdrawal comes two weeks after President Park named him to the post in a Cabinet reshuffle aimed at restoring public confidence in her administration, which was battered by its botched handling of the April tragedy that has claimed nearly 300 lives.

“I agree with President Park Geun-hye’s words that she would reform the root of this nation,” Moon said in a hurriedly called press conference held at a government building near the presidential office. “I also wanted to contribute with the little strength I have to (Park’s) words that she would lead the divided nation to unity and reconciliation.

“However, following my nomination as prime minister, this nation fell into greater confrontation and division. It worried me that this kind of situation would become a stumbling block to the president’s future running of state affairs.”

Moon, a former chief editorial writer for the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper, had been under pressure from both the ruling and opposition parties to quit following revelations that he described Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula and the subsequent division into South and North Korea as God’s will.

“I wanted to help President Park Geun-hye,” he said. “However, I decided that at this point in time, I would be helping President Park Geun-hye by withdrawing my name. Today, I am voluntarily quitting as prime minister nominee.”

Moon’s withdrawal is expected to deal another blow to the Park government, which has come under public fire for its mishandling of the ferry disaster on April 16.

Moon is the second prime minister nominee to quit in less than a month.

On May 28, Park’s first choice for prime minister, Ahn Dai-hee, withdrew his name from the nomination amid criticism that he had made too much money as a lawyer last year by allegedly benefiting from his status as a former Supreme Court justice.

Incumbent Prime Minister Chung Hong-won, who offered to quit following the ferry disaster, will remain in the job until his replacement is confirmed by the National Assembly.

In South Korea, prime minister nominees are subject to parliamentary confirmation.

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