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Enough is enough

Oct 31,2017
The public is increasingly annoyed by the hypocrisy of Hong Jong-haak, a nominee for head of the Ministry of SMEs and Start-ups, who was found to have acted very inappropriately as a candidate for the head of the ministry, launched by President Moon Jae-in to help support small and mid-size companies.

On Monday, it was revealed that the former lawmaker of the ruling Democratic Party sent his daughter to an expensive international middle school, whose tuition fee alone amounts to 15 million won ($13,333) a year. As a lawmaker and scholar, Hong repeatedly argued for “standardization of education” and the shutdown of special-purpose high schools. We have rarely seen such a contradictory case in which a person’s words and actions are so different.

Over the past six months, seven nominees for ministerial and vice ministerial positions have dropped out. Three dropped out during the first six months of Lee Myung-bak’s presidency, and six during the first six months of the Park Geun-hye administration. The Blue House should be held accountable for this. The presidential office says that it picked Hong after thoroughly screening more than 20 candidates for over a month. But we wonder what the Blue House really did.

The Blue House’s manual on scrutinizing candidates for top positions requires presidential aides on personnel affairs to ask them whether their underage children own property and if they have a claim-obligation relationship. But the presidential office picked Hong even though his 13-year-old daughter possessed a 25 percent stake — worth 800 million won — in a commercial building he had inherited from his mother-in-law. That’s not all. His daughter borrowed a whopping 220 million won from her mother.

Nevertheless, Hong was nominated as head of the ministry. So he either lied to the Blue House or the presidential office pushed his nomination even while being aware of his problems.

If the latter is the case, Cho Kuk, presidential secretary for civil affairs, and Cho Hyun-ock, presidential secretary for personnel affairs, must apologize for the loopholes in their screening procedures and take responsibility for the debacle. Moon also must change his stubborn attitude about appointments. If he adheres to picking nominees based on their connections to his campaign, ideological backgrounds and the party, he will run into another disaster. We urge him to nominate people based on competence.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 31