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(LEAD) Partisan tensions mount over Moon's appointment of two controversial ministers

Politics 16:21 April 08, 2019

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES with more details throughout; CHANGES photos)

SEOUL, April 8 (Yonhap) -- Tensions between rival parties mounted Monday as President Moon Jae-in pressed ahead with the appointment of two ministers, including one in charge of North Korea affairs, despite opposition objections.

Moon appointed unification minister nominee Kim Yeon-chul and venture minister nominee Park Young-sun after parliament failed to adopt their confirmation hearing reports Sunday.

The adoption of a hearing report is a procedural step for parliament to express its consent to the president's nomination. Without the report, the president can appoint a nominee after asking the parliament to send it to him by a specific date.

Kim has come under fire for pro-North Korea remarks that he made in books and on social media as a professor. Park, a four-term ruling party lawmaker, is accused of lying under oath during her confirmation hearing.

This image captured from footage by Yonhap News TV shows venture minister nominee Park Young-sun (L) and unification minister nominee Kim Yeon-chul during parliamentary confirmation hearings. (Yonhap)

This image captured from footage by Yonhap News TV shows venture minister nominee Park Young-sun (L) and unification minister nominee Kim Yeon-chul during parliamentary confirmation hearings. (Yonhap)

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) and minor opposition Bareunmirae Party (BP) vehemently denounced the appointments.

"There was no consideration of the people in Moon's push to appoint them. The move only revealed the Moon government's greed," Rep. Min Kyung-wook, LKP spokesman, said in a statement.

"President Moon wrote a new history of dictatorship. But the LKP will not yield to the Moon regime's unilateral push," he said.

LKP chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn earlier said that if Moon appoints the nominees, it only confirms that the Moon administration is a self-righteous and arrogant regime that disregards the opposition rejection and public sentiment.

The conservative BP called Moon's decision a "frontal challenge to the people," amid growing calls to sack senior presidential secretaries on civil affairs and personnel, citing their failure to properly vet minister nominees.

Kim and Park are among seven minister nominees named by President Moon in a Cabinet reshuffle in March.

Two other nominations were derailed previously, with Moon withdrawing one and the other nominee voluntarily stepping down amid public criticism of ethical lapses.

Monday's ceremony was also joined by three other ministers who were earlier appointed without a formal event.

Without the adoption of hearing reports, Moon has appointed 11 ministerial-level officials including Kim and Park since he took office in May 2017.

The ruling Democratic Party (DP), meanwhile, welcomed the appointments and called for opposition cooperation for the new five ministers to smoothly do their jobs.

"Unification Minister Kim has a lot of tasks to do following the breakdown of the U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi and ahead of summit talks between South Korea and the U.S. We hope ruling and opposition parties could lend support to him," Rep. Kang Byung-won, floor spokesman of the DP, said.

He expressed hope that Park could play a key role in leading the small and medium-sized enterprises and venture ministry with her expertise built from parliamentary activities.

The intense partisan tensions herald a tough road ahead during the extra parliamentary session that kicked off Monday for a one-month run.

The rival parties had already clashed over whether to include expenditures on the latest blaze in an eastern province in a proposed extra budget bill.

The DP insists the government should set aside potential spending on supporting recovery from the devastating fire in Gangwon Province in a supplementary budget bill that the government will submit later this month.

But the LKP opposes the move, raising doubts that the government could seek to spend more on job creation with a bigger extra budget ahead of next year's general elections. The party called for the drawing up of a new disaster-related extra budget bill.

A tug of war continued during a meeting between National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang and the floor leaders of five political parties.

"The National Assembly has yet to pass bills on people's livelihoods this year. Parliament should do its part even if parties are in political strife," DP floor leader Hong said.

LKP floor leader Na Kyung-won repeatedly expressed the party's opposition to the appointments, calling on the president to reconsider his decision.

During the meeting, Speaker Moon raised the need to improve the confirmation hearing system. He said lawmakers should focus on vetting a nominee's job qualifications while the president should not appoint a nominee whose hearing reports are not adopted.

The participants agreed on the need to enhance the system but failed to reach a conclusion due to their differences on details, the speaker's office said.

National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang (3rd from L) and the floor leaders of five political parties pose for a photo at the National Assembly on April 8, 2019, before holding a meeting over the schedule for an extraordinary parliamentary session in April. (Yonhap)

National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang (3rd from L) and the floor leaders of five political parties pose for a photo at the National Assembly on April 8, 2019, before holding a meeting over the schedule for an extraordinary parliamentary session in April. (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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