By Shim Sun-ah
SEOUL, Aug. 30 (Yonhap) -- The resignations Sunday of three Cabinet appointees, unprecedented in number and in a single day, have exposed the utter failure by the administration and the ruling bloc in screening the nominees, and put them in a bind just ahead of the parliamentary session opening this week.
Kim Tae-ho, designated on Aug. 8 as prime minister, and two other nominees -- Shin Jae-min for culture minister and Lee Jae-hoon for knowledge economy minister, gave up their nominations after confirmation hearings in which they ended up apologizing for conduct that violated, or bordered on violating, the law.
The clincher came during the hearing for the prime minister nominee when, on the second day of the hearing, new allegations arose in a case the prosecution had closed in December, raising questions as to whether investigators were serious about probing Kim, and ultimately, how the suspicions simply fell through the screening net without anyone noticing.
The prosecution previously cleared Kim of charges that he received tens of thousands of dollars in 2007 in illegal political funds from Park Yeon-cha, the head of shoemaker Taekwang Industry. At the time, Kim was the governor of South Gyeongsang Province where the company is based.
But suspicions flared again during the hearing when the nominee overturned his own testimony about when he met the businessman. Then, a photo showed up of Kim with Park at a date far earlier than Kim claimed.
Knowledge economy minister nominee Lee gave up his appointment when he could not convince the hearing panel that his wife's purchase of a house in a dilapidated neighborhood was not a speculative deal, despite the property prices jumping shortly after the purchase when the area was designated a redevelopment area.
Culture minister nominee Shin admitted that he registered his residency at a different address from where he and the family actually lived, claiming the move was meant to protect his daughter from bullies at her former school, though such a practice is illegal.
On Monday, legislators of the ruling Grand National Party (GNP), belonging to a faction loyal to President Lee Myung-bak, pressed Cheong Wa Dae on its accountability.
"The problem is that high-ranking presidential officials in charge of verifying qualifications of Cabinet nominees made a political judgement that everything would be OK as long as a nominee can withstand attacks from newspapers and the opposition bloc and has sufficient work ability," Rep. Kim Yong-tae said in a radio interview. "The officials must be asked to take responsibility."
Rep. Lee Hahn-koo said that it would be the "responsibility of a decisionmaker" if he ignored concerns that the law offenses by the three Cabinet nominees would come under intensive questioning.
The debacle may not be over yet, especially when rival parties meet at the National Assembly, which opens session on Wednesday.
The opposition's demands were partly met when the prime minister nominee dropped out, but it has not let up on the nominee for new national police chief Cho Hyun-oh.
Cho was sued for libel for his remarks that former President Roh Moo-hyun committed suicide after investigators found bank accounts he held under borrowed names, a violation of financial laws. He was also heavily criticized for comparing bereaved families of sailors killed in the Cheonan warship sinking to "wailing animals."
"It is questionable if Cho has enough morality, communication ability and leadership to become the national police chief or if he has made efforts to be fit for the post," said Rep. Suh Byung-soo, a member of the GNP's supreme council.
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