Park Soon-ae, a former professor at Seoul National University’s Graduate School of Public Administration who was appointed vice premier and minister of education, refuses to step down from the candidacy despite various allegations against her, including a drinking and driving record. President Yoon Suk-yeol kept an ambiguous stance to suggest he might accept the nomination despite his scandalous record. If a legislative confirmation hearing cannot take place this week due to disputes over the formation of standing committees for the second half, President Yoon could approve his appointment without legislative confirmation.
Drunk driving cannot be excused in any government office. The Department of Education has required that a single drink-driving record disqualifies school principle applicants. Someone who cannot even be eligible to oversee a school cannot be qualified to command the educational policy of the government.
Asked about her record, President Yoon said: “Other factors such as the crime rate and ethical issues must be taken into account” before rescinding her nomination.
Park was caught driving drunk in 2001 after police campaigned against driving after drinking. At that time, road traffic deaths exceeded 10,000 in Korea, the most among OECD countries.
Her blood alcohol level when she was arrested was 0.251%, twice as high as 0.1%, which voids a driver’s license. Park in 1993 was fined 500,000 won ($389) for violating the Traffic Accident Prevention Law.
Park said his act 20 years ago cannot be excused and still deeply regrets it. The court pardoned her with a light sentence, but she said she could not be “morally forgiven”. If so, she should have rejected the offer of appointment from the outset.
The presidential office ended up choosing an outraged candidate after its former candidate Kim In-chul had to step down over ethical issues. Kim Seung-hee, candidate for the post of Minister of Social Affairs, also faces various allegations against her despite the government’s previous flop by choosing Chung Ho-young. The criminal record of candidate for Education Minister Park could have been discovered from a simple record check.
Yoon chastised the Ministry of Education for its lack of role in training talent for the semiconductor industry. Education reform is crucial to bring the education policy of the new administration up to date with the changes of the times. The president must choose competent ministers without ethical problems. The park is not one. She must withdraw.