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Concerns growing over Cabinet vacuum

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Members of a special committee for the hearing of Prime Minister nominee Han Duck-soo hold a meeting at the National Assembly on Seoul's Yeouido, Wednesday. The hearings for Han have been rescheduled to May 2 and 3, after earlier hearings on Monday and Tuesday broke down due to a boycott by the Democratic Party of Korea and the Justice Party. Joint Press Corps
Members of a special committee for the hearing of Prime Minister nominee Han Duck-soo hold a meeting at the National Assembly on Seoul's Yeouido, Wednesday. The hearings for Han have been rescheduled to May 2 and 3, after earlier hearings on Monday and Tuesday broke down due to a boycott by the Democratic Party of Korea and the Justice Party. Joint Press Corps

By Jung Da-min

There are growing concerns that the Yoon Suk-yeol administration may start with several Cabinet positions unfilled, as several currently sitting ministers have offered to resign at the end of Moon Jae-in's term, accompanied by the uncertain future of Yoon's nominees, some of whom are not likely to pass the National Assembly confirmation hearings.

In addition, the delayed hearings for Prime Minister nominee Han Duck-soo are making the situation worse, given that the prime minister has the right to recommend Cabinet appointees to the president.

A total of seven ministers of the Moon administration who are also members of the liberal ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) are set to resign from their ministerial posts before the Yoon government takes office on May 10.

According to media reports citing government officials, Wednesday, the seven ministers are Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae, Interior Minister Jeon Hae-cheol, Environment Minister Han Jeong-ae, SMEs and Startups Minister Kwon Chil-seung, Unification Minister Lee In-young, Culture Minister Hwang Hee and Justice Minister Park Beom-kye. They are reportedly planning to resign on May 9, the last day of President Moon's term.

In the meantime, National Assembly hearings of minister nominees named by President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol are being delayed amid escalating tensions between the conservative main opposition People Power Party (PPP), which will become the ruling party upon Yoon's inauguration, and other parties including the DPK and the progressive minor opposition Justice Party.

The hearings for the prime minister nominee, held for two days on Monday and Tuesday, broke down and were postponed to May 2 and 3, as a result of a boycott by DPK and Justice Party lawmakers, in protest of Han's repeated refusals to submit relevant materials.

Other hearings have also been delayed to next week for similar reasons such as insufficient materials or witness non-attendance. Defense Minister nominee Lee Jong-sup will face the Assembly on May 4, and Interior Minister nominee Lee Sang-min's hearing will be on May 3 and Culture Minister nominee Park Bo-gyoon's will be on May 2.

Due to the delayed hearings, concerns are rising that the Yoon government might also be delayed from starting out with a full Cabinet. President-elect Yoon would not be able to appoint ministers without receiving recommendations from his prime minister, according to the Constitution. Thus, if Han's appointment as prime minister is delayed, other minister nominees' appointments will also be delayed, unless current Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum remains in office after Yoon's inauguration to help the next president organize a new Cabinet.

There are also concerns that if the next government experiences such a vacuum, it could be prolonged if the DPK continues to oppose minister nominations.

DPK floor leader Rep. Park Hong-keun said Wednesday, during a radio interview with local broadcaster KBS, that serious problems have been found in eight minister nominees. "We will thoroughly verify each candidate according to the standards of the people," Park said.

PPP spokesman Rep. Kim Hyung-dong criticized the DPK floor leader's remarks, saying the DPK is making objections to obstruct the next administration's state affairs, by unnecessarily asking for too many materials including information that is too old to obtain.

"It is not right that the DPK is warning to bring down many nominees while presenting a specific figure regarding how many that they will bring down to obstruct the new government's state affairs," Kim said in a Thursday commentary. "National Assembly hearings should not be about asking for too many materials or making farfetched claims regarding nominees only to bring them down without specific or reasonable reasons."

Members of the honor guard rehearse for the inauguration ceremony of President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, slated for May 10 at the National Assembly on Seoul's Yeouido, Thursday. Joint Pres Corps
Members of the honor guard rehearse for the inauguration ceremony of President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, slated for May 10 at the National Assembly on Seoul's Yeouido, Thursday. Joint Pres Corps

Hearings will be held on May 2 for six minister nominees ― Prime Minister nominee Han, Culture Minister nominee Park, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister nominee Rep. Choo Kyung-ho, Foreign Minister nominee Rep. Park Jin, Land Minister nominee Won Hee-ryong and Environment Minister nominee Han Hwa-jin.

Then on May 3, hearings will be held on four nominees, including Prime Minister nominee Han, Science and ICT Minister nominee Lee Jong-ho, Health Minister nominee Chung Ho-young and Interior Minister nominee Lee.

On May 4, hearings will be held for Justice Minister nominee Han Dong-hoon, Defense Minister nominee Lee, Oceans Minister nominee Cho Seung-hwan and Labor Minister nominee Lee Jeong-sik.

The other hearings will follow in the next few days including on May 6, with hearings for Gender Minister nominee Kim Hyun-sook and Agriculture Minister nominee Chung Hwang-keun.



Jung Da-min damin.jung@koreatimes.co.kr


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