Blue House seeks nod for foreign minister nominee

Ms Kang Kyung Wha, South Korea's foreign minister nominee, taking an oath at her confirmation hearing on Wednesday.
Ms Kang Kyung Wha, South Korea's foreign minister nominee, taking an oath at her confirmation hearing on Wednesday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

UN veteran 'can open new doors' but faces opposition over lapses

SEOUL • South Korea's presidential office yesterday requested Parliament approve President Moon Jae In's pick for foreign minister, United Nations veteran officer Kang Kyung Wha, as the new leader prepares for multiple summits, starting with the United States.

"We cordially ask you to help us open a new diplomatic horizon with new leadership under nominee Kang Kyung Wha, with her experience from the Foreign Ministry and the United Nations," Blue House spokesman Park Soo Hyun said.

"We ask for (Parliament's) help so that she may use her expertise in the international society to open new doors for (South Korea's) diplomacy."

The appointment of a foreign minister is pressing as Mr Moon will hold a summit with US President Donald Trump later this month.

US Under-Secretary of State Thomas Shannon will visit Seoul next week to discuss the summit agenda, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday. No date has been set for the summit.

Mr Moon is currently facing a national security power vacuum as he is working with holdovers from the Park Geun Hye administration.

He formally appointed Mr Kim Dong Yeon as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister yesterday, after a parliamentary committee cleared the latter for the job.

GREAT ASSET

We ask for (Parliament's) help so that she may use her expertise in the international society to open new doors for (South Korea's) diplomacy.

BLUE HOUSE SPOKESMAN PARK SOO HYUN, on the request for Parliament to approve Ms Kang Kyung Wha's nomination.

Ms Kang, 62, has enjoyed a long UN career and was most recently senior adviser on policy to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

No parliamentary approval is required for the post of foreign minister in South Korea, but the standard procedure is for lawmakers to issue a report on possible Cabinet members after a nomination hearing.

If Mr Moon appoints Ms Kang in the face of opposition from other political parties, it could hurt his chances of securing their support on major policy issues in Parliament, where his party does not have a majority.

Three opposition parties, controlling 167 seats of the 299-member Parliament, have formed a united front against the former high-ranking UN official, citing ethical lapses. The minor opposition People's Party, which has the swing vote, says her working abilities are not enough to cover her personal flaws.

Lawmakers grilled Ms Kang for 14 hours during her nomination hearing on Wednesday, criticising her over a number of things, including paying long-overdue taxes just after she received her ministerial nomination.

Her decision to falsely register her place of residence for her child more than a decade ago was also strongly criticised as it is a crime in the country and those found guilty could face up to three years in prison.

Ms Kang acknowledged some of the accusations like false residence papers and tardy tax payments, saying her actions were deeply regrettable. But she denied others, like speculating on land her husband and daughter purchased.

REUTERS, KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 10, 2017, with the headline 'Blue House seeks nod for foreign minister nominee'. Print Edition | Subscribe