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PM nominee Chung’s confirmation hearing set to kick off

Jan. 6, 2020 - 15:47 By Park Han-na
A confirmation hearing for Prime Minister nominee Chung Sye-kyun will begin Tuesday as the main opposition party questions the appropriateness of a parliamentary speaker taking the top government post.

The six-term ruling party lawmaker and former National Assembly speaker will face two days of questioning to determine whether he is to replace Lee Nak-yon, who will return to the ruling Democratic Party to lead its April parliamentary election campaign.

Chung Sye-kyun (Bloomberg)

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party has denounced President Moon Jae-in’s decision to nominate Chung, saying that by doing so he has violated the principle of the separation of powers held by the nation’s legislative, administrative and judicial branches.

Given that Chung previously served as speaker of the National Assembly, the head of the legislature, allowing him to assume the most powerful post in the Cabinet after the president is not in keeping with the tripartite separation of governmental powers, they argued.

Liberty Korea Party Floor Leader Shim Jae-chul said Sunday that his party would reject a motion proposing the appointment of Chung. “The nomination of Chung Sye-kyun as a candidate for prime minister is an insult to the National Assembly, an agency that represents the people.”

Chung rebutted the criticism, arguing that the separation of powers means the institutions that make, enforce and apply the laws must have independent roles, but that this did not preclude any crossover among individuals within those institutions.

“If an incumbent National Assembly speaker becomes a prime minister, it could violate the principle but the members of the National Assembly are allowed to serve as prime minister or have dual roles in accordance with the National Assembly Act,” Chung said in a 675-page written answer to the parliament. His appointment is subject to ratification by the Assembly.

Addressing concerns that Chung could exercise influence on the upcoming general election since he is a member of a specific political party, he ruled out any possibility of applying leverage as prime minister.

“Even if a prime minister or minister belongs to a specific political party, they should not violate or cannot violate the election neutrality obligation.”

The businessman-turned-politician stressed that his mission would be to revitalize the economy and public welfare.

When announcing Chung as the nominee on Dec. 17, President Moon expressed high expectations of Chung, who held senior ranks at the now-defunct SsangYong Group and served as industry minister in the Roh Moo-hyun administration.

“First of all, Chung knows the economy very well. He was a successful businessman and paved the way for $300 billion of exports as industry minister in the participatory government,” Moon said in a televised news conference.

The government is struggling to show any significant economic achievements from its income-led growth policies, as there have been no significant improvements in employment.

The government expects the country’s economy to grow 2.4 percent this year, although most investment banks have released less optimistic growth forecasts.

By Park Han-na (