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S. Korea Parliament Again Vetoes Kim's PM Choice - 2002-08-28


South Korean lawmakers have vetoed President Kim Dae-jung's second nominee for prime minister, after the candidate admitted he had violated a tax regulation. Parliament's move deals yet another blow to Mr. Kim less than four months before a presidential election.

Lawmakers rejected Chang Dae-whan in a 151-112 vote after a three day parliamentary hearing.

The vote drew national attention because of its political implications before the presidential elections. Mr. Chang was grilled about an unpaid inheritance tax bill, which he apologized for and said was an oversight.

Mr. Chang is President Kim Dae-jung's second nominee for prime minister to be rejected. The first, Chang Sang, was rejected last month after a controversy surrounding her credentials and her real estate transactions.

Mr. Kim's single five-year term ends next February, and observers say the rejection of the two nominees is tied to partisan politics. But other scandals linked to the president have tarnished his reputation, two of his sons are awaiting trial on corruption charges.

People are beginning to question the ethical standards of their politicians, says Scott Snyder, the Korea representative to the Asia Foundation. "This is the beginning of a presidential election season, and so I think that all parties are conscious of how public opinion is likely to respond. But there have been problems that have definitely been uncovered in the context of the nomination process," he said.

He adds that the opposition also is reacting to an attack made on its presidential candidate, Lee Ho-chang, after it was revealed that his two sons dodged the military draft.

Korea has been without a prime minister since a cabinet shake-up in July. Although the role is largely ceremonial, it is significant because the prime minister takes over if the president becomes incapacitated. President Kim, who is 77 years old, has been hospitalized for pneumonia and other problems this year.

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