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[Editorial] Attend hearings

Democratic Party boycotts confirmation hearings, endangering launch of new Cabinet

Prime Minister nominee Han Duck-soo’s two-day confirmation hearings all fell apart due to the Democratic Party of Korea’s boycott.

The ruling and opposition parties agreed to reconvene on May 2 and 3. But it is unclear if they will proceed normally, considering the party’s excessive demands.

Just a day before the hearing started Monday, the party abruptly demanded its postponement, citing that the nominee had not provided information sincerely.

The National Assembly has so far held countless confirmation hearings where rival parties waged wars of words over vetting data provided by the nominee, but one broken up so early without a nominee taking oath is a rarity.

In South Korea, the prime minister is the only Cabinet post that requires parliamentary approval. The prime minister nomination is voted on when a majority of incumbent National Assembly members are present and it is approved when a majority of present members vote for it. So cooperation from the Democratic Party is essential. It has 171 seats in the 300-seat Assembly. The People Power Party with 110 seats cannot put the prime minister nomination to a vote alone.

The Democratic Party blamed Han’s insincerity in providing information. Even so, it went too far. Boycotting a confirmation hearing is as good as neglecting parliamentary duty.

Lawmakers of the hearing committee are said to have made about 1,090 requests for information from the prime minister nominee. The figure is three or four times as many as requested from President Moon Jae-in’s prime minister nominees -- 319 for Lee Nak-yon, 250 for Chung Sye-kyun and 347 for current Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum.

The data the party asked Han to submit includes records on all of the real estate transactions made by his father and mother who died in 1982 and 1994, respectively, details on all of the monthly salaries Han received since he was hired as a government employee in 1970, records on all of the business trips he has taken so far and data on the usage of all of his personal credit cards for the past 10 years.

It is questionable if it is possible to meet these tall orders and it is baffling why such a massive amount of records, some dating back several decades, would be needed for vetting. It seems that the party was looking for an excuse to boycott the hearings. If the party viewed information Han provided as insufficient, it should have criticized him at the hearings.

If the Democratic Party boycotts the May 2 and 3 hearings, Han may not be appointed as prime minister before the presidential inauguration on May 10. If the prime minister nomination is not confirmed, it will be difficult to form a Cabinet of new ministers because the prime minister is required to be involved in the procedure of recommending ministers. In a worst-case scenario, the Yoon Suk-yeol administration may be launched without a prime minister or ministers appointed. Then state affairs could be paralyzed.

It is customary for the outgoing prime minister to recommend the ministers of the next government if the prime minister nomination is not confirmed. However, considering the recent stiff confrontation with the People Power Party over the prosecution reform bill and the issue of moving the presidential office, it is unclear if the Democratic Party will lend a hand to the Yoon administration by following the custom.

Some critics suspect the party may be trying to take Han’s confirmation hearing hostage in order to pressure some ministerial nominees, such as Justice Minister nominee Han Dong-hoon, to withdraw their nominations.

If the party continues to be uncooperative, people will think it is bad-tempered and irresponsible. If it has the intention to hamper the launch of the next government to rally its base of support ahead of the June 1 local elections, it will meet strong headwinds. The people are watching.

By Korea Herald (
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