President Moon scraps nomination for science minister, transport minister nominee steps down voluntarily


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President Moon Jae-in withdrew his nomination of Science and ICT Minister candidate Cho Dong-ho on Sunday over his participation in a controversial conference, while Transport Minister nominee Choi Jeong-ho voluntarily stepped down amid growing questions over his qualifications for the role.

This is the first time the Moon administration has retracted a minister nomination. The move comes amid mounting tension with the main opposition Liberty Korea Party and minor opposition Bareunmirae Party over the establishment of an independent investigative agency to probe wrongdoings of high-ranking public officials, among other key bills on the fast-track.

President Moon Jae-in on Sunday withdrew his nomination of Science and ICT Minister candidate Cho Dong-ho (left) over his participation in a controversial conference, while Transport Minister nominee Choi Jeong-ho (right) voluntarily stepped down amid growing questions over his qualifications for the role. (Yonhap)

“Today, President Moon Jae-in withdrew his nomination of Cho Dong-ho for the Ministry of Science and ICT. During the confirmation hearing, some had pointed out that Cho does not qualify as an adequate candidate that meets the public’s standards. After discussion, Cheong Wa Dae has decided to withdraw Cho’s nomination,” said Yoon Do-han, senior secretary to the president for public relations.

“Nominee Cho Dong-ho did not reveal his participation in the improperly-run conference overseas, and it did not show up on the background check on the Education Ministry and related agencies, so we were unable to filter it out in the verification process,” he added.

Cho’s participation in the World Biomarkers Congress in December 2017 — organized by India-based publishing firm OMICS International, known as a “predatory publisher” — triggered Cheong Wa Dae’s latest decision, along with some 30 records of overseas business trips with his wife using state-funded research money, and luxury Porsche and Mercedes-Benz vehicles owned by his two sons.

On the heels of presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom’s resignation last week, due to a controversial building purchase made by his wife in a region selected for redevelopment, Transport Minister nominee Choi Jeong-ho voluntarily withdrew his candidacy amid criticism of his ownership of multiple properties.

“Cheong Wa Dae has decided to gravely take into consideration nominee Choi’s stance, along with real estate issues raised in the confirmation hearing,” Yoon said.

Choi’s nomination to lead the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport had been criticized, as he owns three houses: one in Jamsil, southeastern Seoul, where he has never lived; one in Bundang, Gyeonggi Province, where he currently lives; and a pent house in the administrative-oriented Sejong city that can be resold.

Choi gave the 84-square-meter apartment in Bundang to his daughter before his nomination, and has since paid monthly rent to his daughter.

Acknowledging the controversial real estate investments, Choi apologized multiple times during his confirmation hearing, saying “it (his real estate ownership) does not go in line with the public’s standards.”

“Cheong Wa Dae has applied the seven standards in the nomination of the latest cabinet ministers, but fell short of meeting citizens’ standards. We are deeply sorry,” Yoon said.

With a political impasse plaguing the second cabinet shakeup, the Liberty Korea Party has refused to approve all seven minister nominees and raised the possibility of taking legal action against SMEs and Startup Minister nominee Park Young-sun for her comments targeting party leader Hwang Kyo-ahn and his involvement in the nomination of ex-Vice Justice Minister Kim Hak-eui, who is embroiled in an orgy scandal.

The Bareunmirae Party has also called on Unification Minister nominee Kim Yeon-chul to resign, citing his allegedly left-leaning posts on social media, along with SMEs and Startup Minister nominee Park Young-sun.

By Kim Bo-gyung (lisakim425@heraldcorp.com)


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