The appointment of Constitutional Court presidential nominee Lee Dong-heub is unlikely to be approved by the parliament as criticism mounted of his ethics during a two-day confirmation hearing that ended on Tuesday.
For Lee to take office, an assessment report needs to be drawn up by Wednesday, and processed during the extraordinary session of the National Assembly. The main opposition Democratic United Party, however, has refused to draw up the report.
|Constitutional Court presidential nominee Lee Dong-heub prepares for his confirmation hearing at the National Assembly on Tuesday. (Yonhap News)|
As the parties lock horns in the hearing, the seat of Constitutional Court president appears likely to remain empty for some time.
The schedules for the National Assembly session and subsequently the procedures for processing President-elect Park Geun-hye’s government reorganization plan and nominations for her Cabinet also appear likely to be thrown off course.
The DUP, which has vowed to prevent Lee taking office, concentrated on possible embezzlement of expense allowances given to Constitutional Court justices.
According to Rep. Park Beom-kye of the DUP, Lee deposited an expense allowance amounting to 230 million won ($216,000) in his personal account during his 6-year term as a justice of the top court.
Park has alleged that Lee used the funds for personal uses including insurance installments, overseas transfers and credit card payments, and accused the nominee of embezzlement.
While Lee has denied allegations of embezzlement, Park’s claims were supported with testimony from a Constitutional Court employee.
“The nominee deposited the expense allowance in a personal account, rather than the account his salary is deposited,” Kim Hye-young said. Kim is a Constitutional Court employee who held an accounting post while Lee was serving as a justice of the court.
In response to Park’s question whether depositing the expense allowance in a personal account was appropriate, Kim said that the action was not.
Kim also admitted that the records of how the allowances are spent are not examined in detail.
“I am given records of how the expense allowance is spent by the secretaries. I have been storing the records in my cabinet because I felt that disclosing the records was inappropriate,” Kim said.
She also said that she was aware that receiving the records once a month was against regulations, but continued to operate in that manner.
Under related regulations, records of expenditure for expense allowances exceeding 300,000 won need to be provided.
The monthly allowance deposited in Lee’s personal account varied from 3 million to 5 million won.
While the DUP turned up the heat on Lee, Saenuri Party floor leader Lee Han-koo criticized the opposition party, accusing it of using the confirmation hearing for political gain.
“A nominee for public office is being treated like a criminal. Character assassinations occur commonly,” Lee Han-koo said.
“It is regrettable that the confirmation hearing is being used for the gains of the party. (I call on) DUP members of the confirmation committee to regain reason and to conduct a fair and cool-headed hearing.”
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)