Creationist poses personnel conundrum for Moon

By Choi He-suk

Parliament finds SME minister nominee unfit, Supreme Court chief nominee faces increasing heat from conservatives

  • Published : Sept 14, 2017 - 17:40
  • Updated : Sept 14, 2017 - 17:40

President Moon Jae-in’s personnel choices have hit yet another setback, with even the ruling party shying away from giving him support.

This time, the trouble came from Minister of SMEs and Startups nominee Park Seong-jin, an engineering professor with hard-right historical views and involvement in creation science -- an effort to provide a scientific basis to creationism.

Since Moon tapped Park for the post, it has been revealed that Park has unusual scientific beliefs and has been involved in activities hinting far-right historical views.

SMEs and Startup minister nominee Park Seong-jin swears an oath at his confirmation hearing at the National Assembly on Monday. Yonhap

At his parliamentary confirmation hearing, Park stated that he believes the Earth to be about 6,000 years old from the perspective of his faith, and that it should be acknowledged that elements of creationism have been “proven by experts using scientific methods.”

His historical views fall in line with views of the New Right movement and directly contrast with those of the current administration. Such views and his opposition to homosexuality have earned him harsh criticism from progressives. Park has backtracked and apologized for his “ignorance.”

In contrast, the conservatives have applauded his views on history, which puts the time of South Korea’s foundation in 1948 as opposed to Moon’s view that it was 1919.

Despite Park’s attempts to explain his actions and views, the confirmation hearing committee on Park disapproved of his appointment Wednesday and its decision was formally relayed to Cheong Wa Dae on Thursday.

The development also put Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon in the spotlight during Thursday‘s parliamentary session, where he hinted that advising the president to withdraw Park may not be out of the question.

Saying that finding a nominee for the post was a difficult process that began with over 30 names, Lee said that officials involved in the process were not aware of Park‘s “distinctive” world view, and that he would consider making the suggestion to Moon.

“The National Assembly’s decision must be accepted with weight. (I) will read the confirmation hearing report thoroughly and consider the matter for one or two days,” Lee said, responding to a question on whether he would consider suggesting that Moon withdraw Park.

Ruling Democratic Party of Korea lawmakers on the committee vacated their seats when the issue was put to the vote Wednesday, which has been taken as the ruling party’s tacit support in judging Park unfit for office.

Although nominees for ministerial posts require an Assembly hearing, the outcome is not binding, meaning Moon could still choose to proceed with his appointment.

Although five individuals tapped for various posts have resigned or forfeited in the vetting process, Park is the first who the ruling party has rejected.

“(I) think that Park Seong-jin should make the decision on his position in light of the public sentiment and opinion. If that is not possible, Cheong Wa Dae should make the final decision,” Democratic Party spokesperson Rep. Back Hye-ryun in a radio interview Thursday.

For the presidential office and the ruling party, Park’s future in the civil service is also tied with that of Supreme Court Chief nominee Kim Meong-su.

Kim has the support of the ruling party and the left-wing Justice Party, but is being firmly opposed by conservatives. Led by the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, the conservative bloc has accused Kim of being biased in favor of left-wing ideology and entities. It claims that the administration is attempting to hijack the judiciary.

Rep. Park Jie-won of the People’s Party, which was instrumental in the nominee for Constitutional Court president, Kim Yi-su, being vetoed by the National Assembly on Tuesday, claimed that the ruling party has attempted to broker a deal.

The four-term lawmaker said Thursday that the ruling party had approached him saying that it would “take steps” on Park Seong-jin only if Kim’s approval by the parliament is guaranteed.

By Choi He-suk (