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(3rd LD) Moon asks for 'understanding' over controversial nominations

All Headlines 17:59 May 29, 2017

(ATTN: ADDS more info in para 13)

SEOUL, May 29 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in on Monday asked for understanding over a controversy surrounding his prime minister nominee amid repeated demands for his apology from opposition parties.

"I ask for people's and opposition lawmakers' understanding in that the ongoing controversy over nominations has been caused by a lack of time to thoroughly verify," Moon said during a weekly meeting with his senior secretaries at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

Officials said the president did not use the word "apology" or "apologize." But his remarks came after nearly all opposition parties demanded an apology from the president.

President Moon Jae-in (back row, C) speaks in a weekly meeting with his senior secretaries held at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae on May 29, 2017. (Yonhap)

Moon's presidential chief of staff, Im Jong-seok, offered an apology last week over a past wrongdoing by Prime Minister-nominee Lee Nak-yon's wife, who had falsely registered her residence in an attempt to be assigned to the school of her choice while working as a public school teacher.

The decades-old misdeed, though small, still constitutes a crime under local law, and more importantly it is one of the five major corruptive misdeeds the president said would keep him from nominating a person to a government office should they be suspected of such misdeeds.

"What has already happened can only be decided by the confirmation hearing committee at the National Assembly, but I ask the offices of personnel affairs and civil affairs to come up with standards for new government officials that are realistic but can still meet the expectations of the people," the president said.

The president said it did not mean he was withdrawing his earlier pledge to keep people suspected of corruption away from government offices, but only that he was admitting to certain difficulties in real life.

The Moon Jae-in administration came into office on May 10, one day after the country held a rare presidential by-election caused by the ouster of former President Park Geun-hye over corruption allegations.

The controversy over the past wrongdoing by Lee's wife further gathered attention after Moon's nominees for foreign minister and Fair Trade Commission chief also came under scrutiny over similar allegations.

Following the president's de facto apology, the minor opposition People's Party said it will cooperate with the process of confirming parliamentary approval of Lee's appointment, greatly raising the possibility.

The center-left opposition party controls 40 seats in the 299-seat National Assembly.

Together with the ruling Democratic Party's 120 seats, the 40 seats may be all that is needed for Lee's appointment.

The progressive Justice Party also decided to give its blessing to the prime minister nominee. The party has six seats in the Assembly.

But, the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) decided not to accept Moon's request for understanding during a general meeting of lawmakers. The LKP controls 107 seats in parliament.

The prime minister is one of a few officials required to win parliamentary approval for appointment. Others include the chiefs of the Supreme and Constitutional Courts. All cabinet members are required to undergo a confirmation hearing by a parliamentary committee, but are not required to win the parliament's approval.


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