defense minister nominee-hidden stock

By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, March 19 (Yonhap) -- Defense minister nominee Kim Byung-kwan faced fresh allegations on Tuesday that he did not submit a report on his stock assets for a parliamentary confirmation hearing earlier this month in an alleged effort to hide his stake in a Myanmar natural gas company.

The retired four-star Army general was named for the post by President Park Geun-hye in mid-February and underwent a tough confirmation hearing on March 8.

During the confirmation hearing -- which was plagued with questions over his link to a local arms broker, real estate speculation and tax evasion -- Kim said he does not have any stock assets.

However, local media reported that he bought 750 shares of Korea-Myanmar Development Co. (KMDC) in May 2011 at about 40,000 won (US$36) per share.

Kim denied the allegations that he was intentionally trying to lie about the stocks, but that he just forgot to include them for the hearing due to not having enough time to prepare.

"I forgot to submit the reports (on stock assets) as I prepared so many documents for the confirmation hearing in a short period of time," Kim said in a release.

KMDC, which was established in May 2010, signed deals with Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) in 2011 over an offshore gas project, according to its website.

While Kim is under pressure to resign, Park is widely believed to have no intention of withdrawing the nomination as she thinks the allegations raised are not serious enough to warrant him stepping down.

However, Park has yet to officially appoint him, apparently mindful of the public backlash as opposition parties refused to adopt Kim's parliamentary report because of all the allegations.

On Tuesday, the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) reaffirmed its opposition to Kim's application, warning it could take legal actions against the nominee over the falsified statement if President Park goes ahead with his appointment.

"If the President makes the wrong decision and appoints Kim, who is embroiled in several allegations, we will seek all possible measures including legal actions against him," said DUP lawmaker Yoon Kawn-seok.

Under current laws, those who give false testimonies in parliamentary meetings could face up to 10 years in jail.

DUP spokesman Jung Sung-ho claimed that KMDC received favors in the process of acquiring the contract to a natural gas development project in Myanmar under the Lee Myung-bak administration, calling for Kim to voluntarily step down.

Unlike the prime minister appointment, which is subject to parliamentary consent, other government ministers can be appointed regardless of the results of their confirmation hearings, though such forceful appointments could spark a public backlash.

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