S. Korean justice minister nominee defends daughter’s alleged resume-building improprieties

Posted on : 2022-05-10 16:53 KST Modified on : 2022-05-10 16:53 KST
Han Dong-hoon’s confirmation hearing turned into a heated exchange over allegations surrounding his daughter’s dubious volunteer activities
Han Dong-hoon, Yoon’s pick for justice minister, looks at materials organized by lawmakers regarding his daughter’s alleged resume padding during his confirmation hearing on May 9. (Yonhap News)
Han Dong-hoon, Yoon’s pick for justice minister, looks at materials organized by lawmakers regarding his daughter’s alleged resume padding during his confirmation hearing on May 9. (Yonhap News)

A National Assembly confirmation hearing for justice minister nominee Han Dong-hoon on Monday turned into a heated exchange over allegations that his daughter took advantage of her father’s status for a “full range” of college application resume-building improprieties.

Answering that he was “not really aware of what was going on with my daughter’s educational process because I had been demoted to working in the provinces,” Han actively defended her against some of the allegations, saying that some of her activities “should be encouraged, if anything.”

The first questioner that day was Democratic Party lawmaker Kim Yong-min, who mentioned allegations that the daughter had taken advantage of her mother’s connections to carry out a volunteer activity involving the donation of laptop computers.

The same day, the news site OhmyNews published a photo showing a plaque bearing the name of the volunteer group where Han’s daughter served as a representative at a laptop donation ceremony held in November 2020 at a childcare center in North Chungcheong Province.

Using that photograph as evidence, Kim noted that the “name of a group led by your daughter was listed on the commemorative photograph” from the donation ceremony.

“Was this a normal donation activity?” he asked.

“There have been allegations that the donation was based on your spouse and an executive being former classmates, and with accusations charging third-party bribery and bribery by breach of trust, this is a matter that requires investigation,” he stressed.

In the past, Han had strenuously denied any connection between his daughter and the outcome of the volunteer efforts, insisting that the company in question had “donated [the laptops] in its name after holding fair review procedures according to internal regulations and discussing the donation procedures with the service facility.” He also stressed that the donation had not been in his daughter’s name.

In his response Monday, Han said, “The childcare facility was short of laptops, and as they were finding laptops to donate, the company decided to donate disused laptops that would have otherwise been discarded.”

“This is not something to find fault with, but something to be encouraged,” he countered. “Isn’t it a good thing for [laptops] that would have been thrown out to be used instead for disadvantaged [children] studying English?”

Another heated issue at the hearing concerned allegations that research published by Han’s daughter in an overseas journal and on an academic database was actually ghostwritten.

“You’ve said that [the daughter] received ‘no outside assistance’ [in writing the paper], yet evidence indicates that a ghostwriter in Kenya actually wrote it,” Democratic Party lawmaker Kim Nam-kuk said.

“In your initial explanation, you knowingly lied, and you should apologize for that blatant lie,” he continued.

Lawmaker Kim Yong-min also noted “strong allegations of plagiarism considering multiple academic papers and e-books.”

“That constitutes obstruction of operations for the institutions in question is punishable as a violation of copyright,” he said.

Han responded by saying the research in question was “just a practice report written by a high school student” rather than an “official academic paper.”

“[The paper in question] was never used for college entrance purposes, and there are no plans for it to be used for college entrance purposes,” he said.

But his response was inadequate to explain the fact that the report written by his daughter had all the basic elements of an academic paper — including a title, abstract, introduction, body, conclusion, and references — or to resolve questions about why she would have felt compelled to publish what her father described as a “practice report by a high school student” in an actual journal.

Kim Young-bae, another Democratic Party lawmaker, suggested that Han’s daughter was “attempting to build a resume and win awards through ghostwriting and plagiarism so that she could follow the same path as her cousins” who gained admission to elite US universities using the same methods.

“This has all the appearances of something intended to smooth the admission process, and it is crucial that we determine the facts,” he stressed.

Han replied that he had not been directly involved in his daughter’s research paper activities.

“To be honest, I’m not really aware of her educational curriculum,” he said.

“I was not involved, and I was unaware of the situation because I had been demoted to working in the provinces at the time,” he explained.

Commenting on the deletion of an online article from a US website referring to his daughter’s volunteer activities, Han explained, “It was taken down because the other volunteers besides my daughter were all minors who should not be subject to attacks.”

“That’s nothing to condemn,” he added.

In November 2021, the online Los Angeles Tribune published an interview referring to the donation of used notebooks by Han’s daughter as a “satisfying” activity. The article was taken down after allegations that the daughter had taken advantage of her mother’s connections to carry out the volunteer effort.

Responding to calls for his daughter to be investigated for falsifying her record, Han replied that “talking about ‘investigating’ her is a bit much.”

But when asked whether he saw any issues with the resume-building activities in terms of his being a government official, he replied, “This is not an opportunity granted to anyone but a societal advantage, and she will be more cautious with her volunteer activities [in the future].”

By Jang Pill-su, staff reporter; Kim Ga-yoon, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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