Three nominees unlikely to win S Korean parliamentary endorsement

SEOUL - President Park Geun-hye’s nominations of three ministers for education, culture and public administration appeared unlikely to get parliamentary endorsement on Friday, as the opposition party refused to adopt reports on their confirmation hearings.

A sub-parliamentary committee on education, culture, sports and tourism was scheduled to decide whether to approve Park’s appointments of two ministers. But the meeting was canceled after the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy boycotted it, raising pressure on Park to cancel their nominations.

The opposition lawmakers refused to attend another sub-committee meeting to adopt reports on the minister-designate for public administration.

“The opposition party demanded to adopt a report on the two nominees with the conclusion that they are not qualified, and we are against that,” said Rep. Shin Sung-bum of the ruling Saenuri Party. “The opposition party said it would boycott the meeting, so the adoption of the reports ended in failure.”

Education Minister nominee Kim Myung-soo has been facing fierce opposition over a mounting collection of allegations including plagiarism, while Culture Minister nominee Chung Sung-keun came under fire for his past record of drunken driving. Chong Jong-sup, the minister-designate for public administration, has been accused of making speculative real estate investments and receiving preferential treatment while serving in the army.

“One may realize at once that Kim is unfit for the post and Chung is a person who lied to the people to become a minister,” Rep. Kim Tae-nyeon of NPAD said. “They don’t deserve to be nominated.”

During a meeting with floor leaders Thursday, the president said she would consider the request made by the main opposition to withdraw her nominations of the two minister-designates. But she remained silent on Friday on the fate of her nominees.

Observers say the president will seek to buy time to decide whether to press ahead with her nominations. The National Assembly has to adopt reports on the confirmation hearings of Kim and Chung by Monday, and Chong by Sunday.

The president can still appoint ministers without parliamentary endorsement. The prime minister is the only Cabinet post that requires approval from the National Assembly.

Despite her legal power to push ahead with the appointments, Park might opt not to do so in the face of fierce opposition from NPAD.

Park was seen as attempting to open communication channels with the opposition, as she invited floor leaders from both main parties to Cheong Wa Dae on Thursday.

Pressing ahead with appointing the three nominees would strain ties with the opposition at a time when the president is trying to mend them.

But withdrawing the nominations will also come at a cost, because it would leave another delay in her state management. She has already suffered from two failed nominations for prime ministers in recent months.