Disapproval of Constitutional Court presidential candidate Lee Dong-heub appears to be spreading in the National Assembly, even within the ruling Saenuri Party, following the two-day confirmation hearing that ended on Tuesday.
During the hearing, lawmakers of the main opposition Democratic United Party brought a large number of allegations against Lee that ranged from minor misdemeanors to embezzlement of Constitutional Court funds.
The most serious allegation, which Lee failed to disprove, was that he deposited 230 million won ($216,000) of the expenses allowance provided to justices of the Constitutional Court into a personal account, and used it for personal use.
While Rep. Kweon Seong-dong, the Saenuri Party representative on the confirmation hearing committee, reiterated the party’s position that Lee’s nomination will be processed as planned, negative sentiments appear to have spread among senior party officials, including chairman Hwang Woo-yeo.
Hwang is said to have commented that putting expense allowance in a private account was inappropriate while criticizing Lee at an undisclosed senior lawmakers meeting on Wednesday.
Others of the ruling party have expressed opposition to Lee more openly.
“Lee Dong-heub, who has lived a long time as a judge, has unbelievably mismanaged himself and his surroundings. The post of Constitutional Court president should not be left empty even for a day, but it seems that is unavoidable,” Saenuri Party Rep. Kim Sung-tae, a member of the confirmation hearing committee, said on local radio Wednesday.
“So far, (I) can’t agree to his suitability.”
Regarding the possibility of the National Assembly speaker putting Lee’s nomination to a vote using his authority, Kim said that the changes have been made so that the speaker can only exercise the right on urgent issues.
As for the DUP, its resolve to prevent Lee from taking the job appears firmer than ever.
“The confirmation hearing, far from disproving the allegations, made it clearer that Lee is unqualified, incompetent and irresponsible,” DUP floor leader Rep. Park Ki-choon said. He also said that the party has not ruled out legal actions to bring Lee to account for the alleged embezzlement of the expense allowance.
Saenuri Party’s leaders are also likely to have discussed related issues with President-elect Park Geun-hye during her first meeting with the party’s leaders since her election.
On Wednesday, Park met with Saenuri Party leaders including Hwang, and floor leader Lee Han-koo.
They are considered likely to have discussed current issues, including her government reorganization plan, confirmation hearings for the Cabinet nominees, and developments surrounding Lee.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org