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Can Moon walk the walk?

Nov 13,2017
Hong Jong-haak, a former economics professor and lawmaker nominated to head the newly minted Ministry of SMEs and Startups, completed his parliamentary confirmation hearing.

Hong apologized for his past controversial remarks and questions about his double standards.

He claimed that he was not fully aware of the split between his wife and teenage daughter over a property inherited from his mother-in-law, a move critics charged as trying to pay less gift tax, because he had been engaged in election campaigning at that time. He vowed to pay taxes on the inheritance lawfully.

Regardless, he has lost credibility for dodging the tax while publicly criticizing the family-run chaebols for getting a free ride through inherited wealth, and while calling for tougher levies.

He also failed to demonstrate that he can take up the role of spearheading policy to promote venture and small and mid-sized industry. He only narrated his experience with a committee under the ruling Democratic Party when asked what his relevant strengths are.

The Euljiro Committee is an internal party committed to help the rights of the socially weak, including laborers. But it has been criticized for stretching its political influence with one-sided views. Hong’s extreme practice of calling large companies “malignant tumors” could run into trouble.

Seven candidates of vice-ministerial or higher posts had to step down from nominations under the incumbent administration. Hong could become President Moon Jae-in’s eighth poor choice. He was selected from a pool of 50.

The new government’s human resource pool is limited because it keeps to the camp loyal to the president. The chiefs of public institutions, like the Korea International Trade Association, are being replaced with figures from the administration of Moon’s former boss, Roh Moo-hyun, and those who had been active on Moon’s campaign team.

Regardless of all its chants about correcting and rooting out so-called past ills, the new government does not seem to want to part with the ills of parachute appointments.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 11, Page 30