Lawmakers on Thursday virtually refused to confirm outgoing President Lee Myung-bak’s appointment of the next new Constitutional Court chief amid various allegations of ethical misdeeds involving the candidate.
The parliamentary confirmation hearing committee on Lee Dong-heub was in effect disbanded without drawing up a mutually accepted assessment review.
For the nomination to be put to a vote in the National Assembly, the committee should submit the assessment report by Friday or the speaker can use his right to conduct a vote, which is highly unlikely considering the growing criticism of the former judge.
The main opposition Democratic United Party is also considering filing a complaint with the prosecution to investigate allegations that he misappropriated his official allowance for private purposes.
“Regardless of ratification, bringing charges against (Lee) is being considered in order to confirm that the expenses allowance was used for official activities,” said confirmation hearing committee chair Rep. Kang Gi-jung of the DUP.
“As the Saenuri Party is of the opinion that Lee is suitable, it was suggested that the report should contain both suitable and unsuitable opinions. But the Democratic United Party called for one that only included the view (that Lee is) unsuitable, so no agreement was reached,” Rep. Kweon Seong-dong of the Saenuri Party said. He added that as the negotiations have failed, the confirmation hearing committee’s operations have in effect come to an end.
The DUP has been opposed to Lee’s nomination from the start and has vowed to ensure that he will not take office.
A number of DUP lawmakers including Rep. Park Beom-kye have been raising several allegations against Lee ranging from minor misdemeanors to embezzlement of the expense allowance provided to justices of the Constitutional Court.
According to allegations, which have been partially proved during the two-day confirmation hearing, Lee deposited 230 million won ($215,000) of the allowance in his personal account. Lee has denied the allegations, but failed to provide evidence that the funds were not put to inappropriate personal use.
Following the development, the view that Lee will unlikely be appointed as the chief of the Constitutional Court is spreading.
Although the National Assembly speaker has the right to put the issue to a vote, current speaker Rep. Kang Chang-hee of the Saenuri Party is said to consider such a move inappropriate.
While the Saenuri Party’s official position appears to remain favorable to Lee, negative sentiments toward the nomination are said to be spreading through the ruling party.
“Even Saenuri Party lawmakers say that they do not feel right (about the nomination),” Kang of the DUP said in a radio interview on Thursday.
He added that the only options were for President Lee Myung-bak to rescind the nomination or for Lee to step down on his own accord.
“The reason President-elect Park Geun-hye is overlooking Lee who is full of flaws is because (Saenuri Party) floor leader Lee Han-koo is protecting the candidate,” Kang said.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org