UPDATE : 2018.1.17 WED 16:17
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Parliament begins two-day hearing on PM nominee

The National Assembly on Wednesday began a two-day confirmation hearing for Prime Minister-nominee Lee Nak-yon, the first major test of President Moon Jae-in's efforts to foster cooperation with the opposition-led parliament.

Opposition lawmakers were set to grill the former South Jeolla Province governor over his credentials for the government's No. 2 post and allegations about family members.

"I will conscientiously respond to whatever questions are posed to me," Lee told reporters. "I will humbly accept any criticism."

Prime Minister-nominee Lee Nak-yon arrives at the National Assembly in Seoul to attend a parliamentary confirmation hearing on May 24, 2017. (Yonhap)

Earlier this week, the major political parties agreed to vote on the confirmation of Lee as early as next Monday.

Lee's appointment requires consent from a majority of the total 299 lawmakers. The ruling Democratic Party has 120 seats, while the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) and its splinter Bareun Party control 107 seats and 20 seats, respectively.

Since Lee was nominated on May 10, the LKP has criticized the president for failing to deliver on his campaign pledge to exclude anyone involved in five kinds of irregularities -- tax evasion, military service evasion, real estate speculation, plagiarism and registering false home addresses for personal benefits -- from public office.

One allegation against Lee is that his son evaded military service after undergoing surgery for a shoulder dislocation in 2002. The nominee attributed the exemption to a health problem, stressing he even filed a petition to have his son enlisted in the Army.

His son was also alleged to have failed to pay a gift tax after receiving financial support from Lee in leasing a house in a wealthy neighborhood of Seoul. The nominee denied he offered any money to his son for the house.

Lee's wife was also a target of attack. His artist wife was purported to have sold two of her paintings to Jeonnam Development Corp. at unusually high prices in 2013. The corporation is a public firm based in South Jeolla Province where Lee served as governor from July 2014 until earlier this month. Lee argued the sale came 11 months before his inauguration as governor.

Allegations of real estate speculation have been leveled against Lee's mother. She bought a house in southern Seoul in 2001 and sold it in 2005. Its price had risen by more than 200 million won (US$177,777) over the four years. Lee argued that his mother paid due capital gains tax after selling the house. (Yonhap)

Lee Sung-won  edt@koreapost.com

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