President Park Geun Hye Calls on Parliament for Prime Minister Confirmation

D-Bo, May 26, 2015, 10:12 a.m.

President Park Geun-hye called Tuesday for parliamentary endorsement of her choice for prime minister as part of her efforts to push her reform agenda through the National Assembly. "I ask the parliamentary cooperation to ensure the nominee can push ahead with" political and social reform after being confirmed by the National Assembly, Park said in a Cabinet meeting.

The appeal came five days after she named Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn as the new prime minister. The presidential office hopes to conclude all the parliamentary procedures for the confirmation before Park visits the United States in mid-June. Still, the main opposition party said it is opposed to the unilateral time frame set by the presidential office as its chief policymaker pressed Park to withdraw her nomination.

In South Korea, the prime minister is the only Cabinet post that requires parliamentary confirmation. Critics say hearings frequently end up humiliating the nominee mainly over his or her past records or ethical lapses, and do not focus on the skills required for the job. Also Tuesday, she again asked the parliament to pass a bill meant to overhaul civil service pensions in a way that would require public officials to pay more while in service and receive less after retirement.

The public employee pension reform is a key agenda of the Park administration, along with reform in the country's rigid labor market. "The structural reform of the labor market is something that can be neither delayed nor abandoned," Park said, noting it could help create jobs for young people. Young South Koreans are struggling to find jobs as some companies shun recruitment and instead rely on non-regular workers that they can fire more easily.

The unemployment rate for people between the ages of 15 and 29 fell to 10.2 percent in April from 10.7 percent a month earlier. Data, however, showed April's tally is the highest reported for the month since March of 1999, according to government data. She also called on the public sector to introduce a wage peak system in order to encourage the private sector to embrace the job-sharing measure. The system is designed to provide job security for older employees through a gradual wage cut after a certain age. The money saved can be used to hire more young people.

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