S.Korean PM nominee offers to withdraw candidacy

Updated: 2014-06-24 10:52


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SEOUL - South Korea's Prime Minister nominee Moon Chang-keuk offered to resign from his candidacy Tuesday, two weeks after being nominated for the government's No.2 post, amid rising criticism for his past pro-Japanese comments.

"I thought it would help President Park (for me) to resign at this point. It was she who called me here and it was she who can take me in. I wished to help President Park Geun-hye," Moon said during a nationally televised press conference.

Moon said he had shared Park's policy to achieve national unity and great reform, but he said his nomination led the country into a greater conflict and division. Such situation led him to worry that it could have blocked Park's state operation, he added.

Moon, a former chief editorial writer at the conservative JoongAng Ilbo newspaper, was named by President Park on June 10 to replace the incumbent Prime Minister Chung Hong-won who has submitted resignation to assume responsibility for the deadly ferry sinking disaster that occurred in mid-April and left more than 300 people dead or missing.

Since the nomination, Moon has been under strong pressures for his past comments. In his speech at a church in 2011, the nominee described the 1910-45 Japanese colonial rule of Korea and the subsequent division into the two Koreas as "God's will." The remarks outraged many South Korans who still have a deep resentment against Japan for its reluctance to repent its past atrocities.

Moon also made provocative comments on the "comfort women," or a euphemism for Korean women coerced into sex slavery for the Japanese Imperial Army during the World War II. The nominee reportedly said at a university class earlier this year that South Korea may not necessarily need to demand apology from Japan for the comfort women issue.

During the press conference, Moon said that some local media distorted his historical view by quoting a part of phrases, stressing it was not a report of the truth. If news organizations disregard the truth, there will be no hope for the country's democracy, Moon said.

Moon said that his grandfather had been killed during the anti- Japanese movement in 1921, saying that he grew up while hearing from his father that he is a proud descendant of the independence fighter.

The nominee also blamed lawmakers for depending heavily on public opinion. Both ruling and opposition parties have imposed pressures on Moon to withdraw the nomination. The ruling Saenuri Party, which initially favored his nomination, turned its back on him amid the worsening public opinion.

Moon said relying heavily on public opinion will badly become media politics, noting the public opinion is easy to be changed and easy to get engulfed by prejudices. Lawmakers should have held the confirmation hearing for his nomination on the basis of law and principles, he said.

Another resignation of prime minister nominee was expected to deal a blow to the Park administration which has been rattled by the ferry sinking disaster. Ahn Dai-hee, Park's former choice for prime minister, resigned from the candidacy in late May on criticism that the former Supreme Court justice received exorbitant salary as a lawyer at a local law firm.

Park expressed deep regrets over Moon's resignation as he failed to even have a chance for getting confirmed at the parliamentary hearing, presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook told a press briefing. Park hoped that other nominees will have an opportunity to explain themselves at the confirmation hearing.

The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy said that another resignation was a failure of personnel affairs by the presidential office, urging Park to apologize for such failure and confusion in state affairs.