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S. Korea Prime Minister-Designate Faces Tough Confirmation Hearing - 2002-08-26

South Korean President Kim Dae-jung's nominee for prime minister is facing tough questioning at his two-day confirmation hearing in Parliament. A number of allegations have surfaced against the nominee, including tax fraud. Chang Dae-whan, the nominee for prime minister, admitted Monday to evading taxes, but said he had made "errors and oversights" in the reporting of a land deal.

Opposition lawmakers questioning him on the first day of his confirmation hearing raised doubts about his general ethical standards.

Mr. Chang is the second of President Kim Dae-jung's nominees for prime minister to run into trouble this past month. A previous nominee, Chang Sang, was rejected after lawmakers learned that she had misrepresented her academic achievements on her resume.

Professor Chun Hong-chan, a political scientist at Pusan National University, thinks Mr. Chang might be facing even greater problems than Chang Sang. "The failure of the prime minister nomination had solely to do with her credentials; this time problem is two dimensional, I think," said Mr. Chun.

He said the new nominee might also become the victim of a partisan dispute not of his own making, between President Kim's Millennium Democratic Party and the opposition Grand National Party ahead of December's presidential election.

South Korea has been without a permanent prime minister since the previous one was removed in a cabinet shake up in July.

Chang Dae-whan is currently acting prime minister. If he is confirmed to the post, he would serve until President Kim ends his single five year term in February.

The post is largely a ceremonial one with little decision making power, but the prime minister would take over government power if the president became incapacitated.