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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Dec. 29)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:11 December 29, 2020

Another unilateral move
DPK hit for adopting confirmation report

A National Assembly committee has passed a confirmation report on Land, Infrastructure and Transport Minister-nominee Byeon Chang-heum. The ruling Democratic Party of Korea's (DPK) 17 lawmakers on the 26-member committee voted for the report Monday amid fierce protests from the opposition People Power Party (PPP).

This is the second time that a confirmation report has been passed in the absence of a bipartisan consensus since the confirmation hearing of Unification Minister-nominee Lee In-young in July. The DPK maintains that there is no problem with Byeon's qualifications.

DPK Rep. Kang Jun-hyun said, "Byeon has already given a sincere apology for his past remarks. There could be many problems with the appointment of key officials in the future should they fail to get Assembly approval because of allegations based on speculation."

Yet the PPP protested the move, saying Byeon was not appropriate for the post. It also raised the issue of Byeon's drawing up of a "blacklist" of employees to replace them with his students and associates for senior posts while serving as CEO of the Seoul Housing and Communities Corp. (SH) in 2016. Byeon also became the target of criticism for his disparaging remarks on a 19-year-old subcontracted worker who was killed while repairing a metro safety door in May 2016.

President Moon will likely endorse the confirmation report as soon as it reaches Cheong Wa Dae. The ruling bloc has cited the need to appoint a new land minister at an early date to curb soaring housing prices.

No one would oppose the need to keep skyrocketing housing prices under control, as the real estate market nationwide has become overheated. In addition, many experts foresee that apartment prices will continue to rise next year, due mainly to a persisting shortage of supply.

Despite the repeated policy failures, however, Byeon also failed to present any new policies to stabilize housing prices during the confirmation hearings, only repeating the same measures that were taken by outgoing Land Minister Kim Hyun-mee.

He also continuously creates a stir with his seemingly inappropriate statements. Most recently, he triggered public anger by saying, "Women never eat breakfast together because they are busy with their makeup." "Poor people are supposed to eat at home, not go out for a meal." All these and others prove well that Byeon is not qualified for the ministerial post.

Moon is expected to press for Byeon's appointment as soon as possible in a desperate bid to tighten his rule amid signs of becoming a lame duck president earlier than expected. Moon has been driven into a corner since a Seoul court granted an injunction Thursday that was requested by Prosecutor General Yoon Suk-youl against the justice ministry's decision to suspend him from duty for two months. The disciplinary action has triggered controversy as it was aimed at kicking Yoon out of the prosecution apparently over his anti-corruption campaign against the inner circle of political power.

Though Moon apologized for the controversy, he will likely face further hardship. A recent survey by Realmeter shows his approval rating has fallen to a record low of 36.7 percent. This should be taken as a warning from the people.
(END)

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