Park’s confidant suggests PM nominee withdraws his nomination

June 17, 2014
The face of troubled Prime Minister nominee Moon Chang-keuk is seen between closing elevator doors on his way to his office at an annex of the Central Government Complex in downtown Seoul, Tuesday. (Yonhap)

The face of troubled Prime Minister nominee Moon Chang-keuk is seen between closing elevator doors on his way to his office at an annex of the Central Government Complex in downtown Seoul, Tuesday. (Yonhap)

By Kang Seung-woo

President Park Geun-hye is in a quandary over her “surprise” nomination for prime minister, Moon Chang-keuk, because of his record of making controversial statements in churches and public lectures that critics say belittle national pride and glorify Japan’s colonial rule.

Amid snowballing criticism of the nominee, Park’s approval rating has dipped below 50 percent for the first time in five months.

Cheong Wa Dae originally planned to submit a confirmation hearing request to the National Assembly regarding the appointment of Moon, Tuesday, but the President’s hectic schedule during her state visit to Uzbekistan led the presidential office to place it on hold, according to an official.

Lawmakers including those from the ruling Saenuri Party have demanded Moon withdraw voluntarily because of the controversial comments he made in the past, which they think call his judgment of historical issues into question.

“Prime Minister nominee Moon Chang-keuk should consider the public’s wishes concerning his remarks and behavior, and seriously reflect on himself,” Rep. Suh Chung-won of the ruling Saenuri Party said in a news conference Tuesday.

Suh is a party stalwart who has strong ties to Park so his remarks could be a blow to her plan to press ahead with the confirmation.

Saenuri Party floor leader Lee Wan-koo said in a meeting with first-year lawmakers that the party will respect each member’s decision.

Despite the strong criticism, however, Moon made it clear that he had no intention of withdrawing.

“I have no intention to withdraw at the moment,” he told reporters. “At the parliamentary hearing, I will express my opinions to the people and lawmakers to seek their understanding.”

Currently, the National Assembly has 286 lawmakers out of the total 300 seats after some of them relinquishing their status to participate in the June 4 local elections.

If Moon’s confirmation is put to a vote, support by a majority or 143 is necessary for it to proceed. Currently, the ruling party has 149 lawmakers so theoretically, if six or more Saenuri Party members vote against Moon, he won’t be confirmed. At least eight lawmakers or so have expressed their objections.

If the Saenuri Party leadership allows a free vote, the confirmation would appear to be dead on arrival at the Assembly.

Adding to the mix is the Jogye Order, the largest Buddhist sect, which suggested Monday that Park read public sentiment toward the prime minister nominee.

“Public opinion as well as that of Buddhists is not in favor of Moon. An order-level statement regarding the nominee may be inevitable, depending on the situation,” said Ven. Jaseung, the president of the Jogye Order.

A devout Christian, Moon made many controversial remarks during his religious sermons.

The July 30 by-elections are also a big factor to consider because they are emerging as a new confidence vote about the Park government.

A defeat of the ruling party in the elections will likely deal another blow to the government for its poor management of state affairs.

Right after his nomination for the No. 2 post in the government, the former editor-in-chief at the conservative JoongAng Ilbo, has been under fire for his comments in a video of his church sermons belittling Korea and sympathizing with Japan’s colonial rule as well as his editorials and columns critical of former liberal Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun.

According to polling agency Realmeter, Monday, Park saw a decrease of 3.1 percentage points in a weekly survey to fall below the 50 percent mark for the first time since late December, when her approval rating notched 48.5 percent during the railway union’s strike.

“Her approval rating has dropped below 50 percent for the first time this year. It bounced back in the first week of June _ the first time in seven weeks _ but took a sharp decline after the Moon nomination,” the pollster said.

To make Park’s situation worse, her approval rating slipped to 45.5 percent on Friday.

However, the withdrawal of the Moon nomination is not an easy option for Park.

Since the sinking of the ferry Sewol on April 16, the Park administration has been under fire for its failed initial response at a rescue operation, and amid growing criticism Prime Minister Chung Hong-won offered to quit.

Park “ambitiously” came up with former Supreme Court Jude Ahn Dae-hee for her second prime minister, but he withdrew his nomination after he was found to have earned hefty lawyer fees in the six months since he stepped down from the judiciary.
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The face of troubled Prime Minister nominee Moon Chang-keuk is seen between closing elevator doors on his way to his office at an annex of the Central Government Complex in downtown Seoul, Tuesday. / Yonhap

One Comment

  1. zop

    June 17, 2014 at 5:57 PM

    300,000 Korean comfort women by Korean government was provided to the U.S. military.
    Do you ignore the human rights of Korean comfort women?
    Do not forget ‘The Korean War (25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953)’

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