The ruling Grand National Party and opposition parties on Friday grappled over adopting a confirmation hearing report for Choi See-joong, chairman of the Korea Communications Commission.
The GNP supports reappointment of Choi, but opposition parties are determined to remove him from his position accusing him for “politicizing the independent organization” during his three-year tenure, which ends Friday.
Hearings for candidates for high-ranking positions are mandatory, but the president is not bound to follow the resultant report, which means Lee could appoint Choi next week even if the report does not recommend him.
Rep. Park Jie-won, floor leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, on Friday urged Choi to resign. He claimed that the 72-year-old former journalist had submitted insufficient documents and shown an insincere attitude at the confirmation hearing Thursday.
“If the GNP does not agree to evaluate Choi as unqualified, we will veto the approval,” he said.
The GNP said its members will accept the reccomendations of the hearings and that the president would push for the remaining procedures should they fail to do so.
“Yes, the current law allows the president to take whoever he wants,” Park said. “But the public will examine whether Choi is fit to control communication channels,” he added.
Attacks from opposition lawmakers at the Assembly on Thursday brought Choi to tears.
He was accused of failing to address different views in conducting key media policies. He was also suspected of hiring people recommended by the ruling camp which has, according to the opposition, threatened the political neutrality of the KCC.
Choi has drawn fire for approving general programming channels for Donga, Chosun, JoongAng and Maeil Business Daily, all corsidered conservative media. He is now pushing to raise the license fees that fund state-broadcaster KBS, inviting harsh criticisms from civic activists and others.
“It is embarrassing for me to hear those words while I am proud to have kept KCC’s authority from any pressures,” he said while wiping his tears.
Choi, seen as a close aide of President Lee Myung-bak, was also suspected of illegal accumulation of wealth. He is reported to own 6.2 billion won ($5.4 million) in wealth, including two golf course memberships and several pieces of real estate in Seoul and its outskirts.
On the other hand, GNP lawmakers found Choi’s portfolio and past performance satisfactory. “His second term should focus on carrying out the plans he set out on his first tenure. This way he can bring up the national competitiveness,” Rep. Cho Jin-hyeong of the GNP said.
Park said his party would push to revise the law to mandate all ministers and equivalent-ranking officials to gain parliamentary approval before appointment.
“It is frustrating to see how President Lee messes with personnel matters. We will empower the confirmation hearing to reflect public opinion,” he added.
By Bae Ji-sook (firstname.lastname@example.org