Park urges smooth confirmation of PM

Park urges smooth confirmation of PM
South Korean President Park Geun-hye

President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday called for parliamentary co-operation for Prime Minister-designate Hwang Kyo-ahn, saying that it is a prerequisite to speed up her reform drive aimed at reviving the economy and eradicating corruptive practices.

The president sent a motion to the National Assembly on her nomination of the prime minister later in the afternoon. Park also urged that he be able to sail through the confirmation hearing and take on "the heavy task" to bring a better future for the people.

The motion seeking the parliamentary endorsement came five days after Park named the justice minister as new prime minister. Cheong Wa Dae hopes to complete the confirmation process before Park's planned visit to the United States in mid-June.

Under the law, the National Assembly should hold a confirmation hearing of a prime minister-nominee within 15 days and put the motion into vote within five days of the hearing sessions.

Park's sixth premier nominee since the launch of her administration is expected to face fierce resistance from the main opposition party attempting to take the confirmation as a fresh opportunity to press Park and her ruling party.

Cheong Wa Dae stresses that leaving the nation's No. 2 vacant, particularly when the president is overseas, could create a vacuum in state affairs.

The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy is bracing for the battle, selecting sharp-tongued lawmakers with legal careers to grill Hwang, who served as a prosecutor for more than 30 years. The party is expected to highlight his disputed career as a prosecutor on public security and accuse of being an ideologically biased figure not suitable to serve in the No. 2 post.

"It is a matter that is subject to (bipartisan) negotiations and it cannot be done unilaterally," said NPAD Floor Leader Lee Jong-kul. "Whether the prime minister nominee is eligible will be thoroughly examined in line with the citizens' perspective." he said.

The ruling Saenuri Party, however, appeared to take a more leisurely approach, as Hwang was already approved by the parliament upon his nomination for justice minister in early 2013. According to reports, the governing party is considering recruiting lawmakers who formerly worked for the prosecution to defend Hwang from the opposition party's invective.

Amid escalating tension between the rival parties, fresh accusations were raised against Hwang claiming that he tried to skip reports on the use of his business allowances as justice minister.

Under the guidelines, officials are obliged to submit the names and the titles of people he or she had meetings with if such events were paid by the government at an amount of 500,000 won or more.

Hankyoreh newspaper reported on Tuesday that Hwang allegedly spent 490,000 or 480,000 won on 17 different occasions in the first four months this year, raising speculation that he intentionally paid a little less than 500,000 won (S$610) to avoid submitting details on his business expenses.

Controversy is also brewing over his recruitment of incumbent senior prosecutors to help prepare for his confirmation hearing. Two prosecutors from Busan and Uijeongbu District Prosecutors' Offices have been dispatched to the Justice Ministry to assist Hwang. The decision, however, sparked criticism that the justice minister was abusing his authority and that he should work with his own staff rather than prosecutors.

The justice minister, however, remained mum on the accusations, saying that he would prepare for the confirmation hearings "accordingly with the law."

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