Uncertainty is still lingering over the parliamentary approval for Prime Minister nominee Kim Tae-ho as the reversal of his previous remarks has cast doubts over his honesty.
By and large, the ruling Grand National Party believes that he has no “definitive” ethical lapses that could stop him from winning the approval. However, some party ranks as well as opposition lawmakers have shown negative views over his appointment.
The National Assembly will vote on the 47-year-old Kim, former governor of South Gyeongsang Province, on Friday.
On Wednesday, the last day of his two-day confirmation hearing, Kim withdrew his earlier statement that he first met Park Yeon-cha in 2007. Park is a businessman at the center of a broad graft scandal involving former President Roh Moo-hyun.
Kim, who is suspected of pocketing illicit money from Park in April 2007, admitted he met Park in 2006, underscoring that he could not recall what happened three to four years ago.
Critics have argued that he lied to conceal his close ties with the disgraced businessman, and that such a reversal could further undermine his credibility as a public officeholder. Kim has so far denied any graft allegations.
Kim also reversed his earlier statements over allegations related to his family, which he had vehemently repudiated. The allegations include using his staff at the provincial government as helpers and his wife’s using an official car for private purposes.
Earlier in the day, vice floor leaders of the GNP and the main opposition Democratic Party met to discuss the adoption of a report on the confirmation hearing of the prime minister nominee, but failed to narrow their differences.
During the meeting, Rep. Park Ki-choon of the DP insisted that his party could not agree on adoption of the report, saying that his party would oppose Kim’s appointment “until the end” should a plenary session for a vote on Kim be held on Friday.
Kim told his aides Thursday that the grueling hearing was a “good time for him to reflect on his past.”
“I will bear in mind what the lawmakers have pointed out during the hearing and remember it during my term should I become the prime minister,” he was quoted as saying by his aides.
During the last of confirmation hearings on Thursday, opposition lawmakers spewed out a barrage of questions to National Tax Service commissioner nominee Lee Hyun-dong, focusing on his political neutrality and ethical problems.
Lee once again denied the allegations that while serving as chief of the Seoul Regional Tax Office in 2009, he pressured a former NTS senior official, surnamed Ahn, to resign in a move that critics say exceeds his authority.
At the time, Ahn was embroiled in a bribery scandal surrounding former NTS chief Han Sang-ryul. Han stepped down in January 2009 amid news reports that his wife may have given an expensive painting to the wife of his predecessor in January 2007 before Han was named NTS chief.
Regarding the suspicion that he underreported the sale price of his apartment in 1999, Lee said he believes that it was a common practice at the time not to report the real sale price.
The DP is considering blocking appointments of several candidates nominated by President Lee Myung-bak in the Aug. 8 reshuffle.
Also in the GNP, the opinion that some of the nominees should give up their appointments appears to be spreading as the appointments of those tainted with a series of corruption allegations could worsen public sentiment against the ruling camp.
Currently, Cheong Wa Dae appears to have no plan to rethink whether all the nominees are suitable.
The presidential appointment of ministers, however, does not require parliamentary approval.
By Song Sang-ho (email@example.com