The National Assembly on Friday gave the green light to the reappointment of Choi See-joong as chairman of Korea Communications Commission despite fierce denunciation from the opposition parties.
The parliamentary committee on culture, broadcasting and telecommunications adopted the ruling Grand National Party's confirmation hearing report on Choi during a meeting which the main opposition Democratic Party refused to attend.
The DP has condemned Choi for what they called “politicization of the organization” during his three-year tenure, which ends next 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 adopted report did not recommend him.
Rep. Park Jie-won, floor leader of the DP, on Friday urged Choi to resign.
“The hearing (held Thursday) was a tough battle since Choi had submitted insufficient documents and shown an insincere attitude,” he said.
“Yes, the current law allows the president to appoint whoever he wants,” Park said. “But the public will examine whether Choi is fit to control communication channels,” he added.
Park said his party would push to revise the law to require 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.
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 criticized for 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 classified as conservative media outlets. 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 pressure,” 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 have 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.
“I wonder how he made all that money with a journalist’s salary,” Rep. Jun Byung-hun said. “We may need to investigate whether he has used some confidentiality he obtained from his sources for his own benefits.”
On the other hand, GNP lawmakers found Choi’s portfolio and past performance satisfactory for KCC head. “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.
By Bae Ji-sook(firstname.lastname@example.org)