Down goes Kim Yong-joon

Well, this is embarrassing. Kim Yong-joon, the prime minister nominee for the incoming administration, just withdrew his candidacy only five days after Park Geun-hye nominated him. This is only the second time in the Republic’s history that the very first PM nominee failed to become the prime minister. (The first occasion was in 1948, which barely counts given that Republic of Korea was just born.)

Kim, 74 years old, was a former chief justice of the Constitutional Court and the chairman of the transition committee. The fact that he had overcome polio to become one of the greatest jurists in Korea made him appear to be a solid, law-and-order type nominee. But within days, it was revealed that Kim’s two sons were exempt from their military service on rather suspicious grounds — the older one apparently did not weigh enough, and the younger one had gout. It was also revealed that, in the 1970s, Kim purchased substantial amount of real estate under the names of his sons (who were young children at the time,) based on the inside information he obtained as a judge. Apparently, the rising media pressure — foreshadowing a tough grilling from the DUP at the National Assembly hearing — was too much for the old judge to bear.

This stumble out of the gate obviously is not an auspicious start for the Park administration. Apparently, in order to maintain the confidentiality of the nomination, the transition committee did not go through much internal vetting process for fear of a leak.

  • Cloudfive

    Here’s a nice illustration to go with your post. I wonder what will happen to Lee Dong-heub.

  • The_Korean

    Good one. LDH would be lucky if he isn’t prosecuted for embezzlement. He is basically done when it comes to public office I think. Thing about Korean legal circle is that anonymous tips are rare, because the law world is small and all tips are traceable. But with LDH, there was practically a flood of anonymous tips about his misdeeds — which implies that he was at another level when it comes to corruption.

  • Jang

    It’s not possible for PGH to find an ethical supporting cast. But still somehow Koreans are morally superior to waygook.

  • The_Korean

    Because this unprecedented political event is all about you, right?

  • dlbarch

    There is a huge irony in PGH even nominating a 74-year-old as PM after spending the last two years carefully channeling a Kennedy-esque “New Frontier” image for both her and her re-named New Frontier Party.

    It’s also a cynical reminder that under the strong presidency provisions of the country’s constitutional structure, the prime minister-ship is almost an honorary title. (Korea is hardly alone in relegating high political offices to little more than honorary status.)

    I suspect PGH was aiming to appoint Kim as a sort of elder statesman front man for her administration. In any event, it was a serious misstep, and not what one would expect from a team of seasoned pros.


  • Mike

    Leaving aside the whiny comment about the state of poor waegooks in the ROK, it really is impossible to find a clean politician/senior bureaucrat in modern Korea as they are ALL corrupt in one form or another. This is a systemic problem, not linked to any particular personality or party. ALL elites in contemporary Korea are corrupted in some way or another.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Its impossible to find a clean politician/senior bureaucrat ANYWHERE, even in your country and mine. It is almost by definition that anyone drawn to political office/public service is a highly corruptible individual, and the environment, the access to power, influence and money, simply drive them from potentiality to actuality.

  • Mike

    No argument from me, the US system is also corrupt and dysfunctional.

  • Jang

    Wrong again, it’s about the stupidity of that shared belief.

  • weiguk

    Gout is no laughing matter, and you can get it when you are quite young in some situations. While it was often used for comedic effect in the Archie comic books, most doctors consider the pain of a gout attack to be more than child birth and can completely incapacitate you for weeks or months.

  • Arari

    You forget to mention that he was the judge responsible for giving the director of Hyeongjae Welfare Center 2 and a half years when the prosecutor demanded 15 years. That man was guilty of atrocities that make the Inhwa School(the subject of novel and movie The Crucible도가니) pale in comparison. He also had every policeman, government official, and politician in his pocket.
    He also ruled in 1996 that the 5.18 amendment was partially against the constitution because the statute of limitation expired on Cheon Du Hwan and Roh Tae Woo. Where is the statute of limitations on massacre? Besides, Cheon was still president till 1987.
    His father was the president of Joseon Guns and Explosive Ltd.(조선총포화약 주식회사) a company that affiliated with the Japanese during the colonial era.
    His son-in-law is the lawyer of Loanstar, which is in the motions of suing the Korean government. If Kim became prime minister, then there would have the comedic situation where the father-in-law is representing the Korean government, while the son-in-law is suing it.

    And these could be found by some simple internet research before the hearing. So, no, his problems were not just about how he and his family got filthy rich through speculating on realty and how his sons were exempt from military duty. If Lee Dong Heub is guilty of petty immoralities, his is much much more serious.
    And we’ve got Park Geun Hye whining about how the hearings are about nit-picking about ‘a past that had different morals and customs’ and scaring off everyone qualified from office. Well, I don’t know what your definition of qualified means, but if they get scared of people looking into what they’ve done in the past, then maybe they should stay away from public offices.