Parties on collision course over prime minister nominee [2015/03/04 11:23]

The main opposition party amped up demands for the prime minister nominee to step down on Wednesday, citing controversial comments made by the appointee.

Lawmakers from the New Politics Alliance for Democracy said they would consider postponing the plenary vote on Rep. Lee Wan-koo`s nomination scheduled for Thursday. Majority governing Saenuri Party officials said they could unilaterally pass Lee`s nomination if the NPAD boycotted the session.

Lee was nominated to serve as the Cabinet`s second-in-command by President Park Geun-hye last month. Lee`s reputation as a moderate and a mediator among lawmakers across the partisan spectrum appeared to guarantee parliamentary support for the appointment.

But a recording of Lee allegedly intimidating journalists was publicized late Tuesday. Lee can be heard saying he “helped journalists get jobs in universities as professors and presidents,” and that he can “get rid of” reporters who write critical stories about him.

Senior main opposition lawmakers urged Lee to step down. “Two nominees have already failed to receive the National Assembly`s approval. So I was going to let this one pass,” said Rep. Moon Jae-in, newly appointed NPAD leader and former 2012 presidential candidate. “But I fear that is no longer possible. Rep. Lee`s nomination requires reconsideration,” he added.

Opposition lawmakers have laid out a series of allegations against the third-term lawmaker. Suspicions that Lee had illicitly profited in real estate dealings and questions regarding the money used for the property speculation were discussed at Wednesday`s hearing.

NPAD Rep. Hong Jong-hak alleged that Lee had received up to 180 million won ($164,000) in bribes in 2002. The money could have been used to purchase the Tower Palace apartment Lee owned in 2003, before he sold it for profit, Hong said.

Lee denied the charges but said he had received 50 million won from the Grand National Party, the forerunner of the Saenuri Party. “The money was given to every GNP lawmaker, as funds to be used as campaign assistance during the 2002 presidential elections,” Lee said.

Lee failed to clear up allegations that he had pretended to have flat feet to dodge the country`s mandatory military service in the 1970s.

Lee is strongly suspected to have lied about his military service under oath during Tuesday`s hearing. Lee initially said he had received his first medical exam in 1971 in Hongseong, South Chungcheong Province, where X-ray technology was not available to show he had flat feet. Documents showed, though, that Lee`s first medical exam had been in Seoul, where X-ray machines were available, according to NPAD Rep. Jin Sun-mee.
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