| Moon Chang-keuk, the embattled nominee for new prime minister, told reporters Friday that he was preparing for the parliamentary confirmation hearing by watching on television incumbent Prime Minister Chung Hong-won answering to lawmakers` questions during a National Assembly session. When reporters asked him Thursday whether he would resign, he said, "I have not been notified (by the president`s office)." The response suggested that he was determined to explain about the controversies regarding his past remarks during hearing sessions. Judging from the atmosphere of the ruling Saenuri Party, which hold the majority in the parliament, however, it seems that Moon`s failure to pass the confirmation hearing is a done deal. Lee Wan-koo, the ruling party`s floor leader, said that the party will let its lawmakers to vote freely in favor of or against Moon. This reflects the party`s conclusion that it would be impossible for Moon to win the parliamentary confirmation. The result of Gallup Korea`s opinion poll announced Friday showed that just 9 percent of the respondents found Moon "proper" for prime minister, while 64 percent said "not proper."
The vacuum in state management is getting prolonged. Prime Minister Chung is serving as a "vegetable prime minister" for the 56th day since he tendered his resignation over April`s ferry sinking disaster. The implementation of government ministries` major policies, budget execution and personnel appointments have been stalled. Awkwardly, ministers who will be replaced soon are answering lawmakers` questions on future policies. Some people point out that with all political attention focused on Moon, little light has been shed on various scandals involving the nominees for director of the spy agency, education and culture ministers, and senior presidential secretary for civil affairs.
Even if President Park Geun-hye sends a formal request for parliamentary confirmation hearings on Moon immediately after she returns from her overseas trips, it will take at least 20 days to complete the confirmation hearing process. If Moon fails to pass the hearings, it will take another 25 days or so for a newly nominate candidate to be sworn in. The de-facto vacancy of the prime minister that began in April could last for nearly 100 days.
President Park, who will come back to Seoul tonight from visits to three Central Asian countries, must feel heavily burdened. Moon will certainly want to get rid of the "pro-Japanese" label attached to him through the hearings. However, confirmation hearings are not a place where lawmakers are willing to hear candidates for senior public officials freely say what they want to say. President Park should ask for parliamentary confirmation hearings on Moon if she is confident that she can persuade her party`s lawmakers to accept him. If not, it will be reasonable for her to follow the public opinion. The sooner, the better.