Prime Minister nominee Kim Yong-joon has inspired many with his dramatic story of overcoming a physical disability to become the nation’s top judge.
The transition chief and former Constitutional Court president has also been widely respected for his integrity, fairness and strong commitment to principle and the law.
Born in Seoul in 1938, he contracted polio at the age of 3 that left him disabled. He had to be carried on his mother’s back to attend school.
|Prime Minister nominee Kim Yong-joon arrives at the presidential transition team’s office in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap News)|
He passed a high school qualification exam during his junior year of high school and entered Seoul National University of Law. Kim graduated summa cum laude from SNU and in 1960, he became the country’s youngest judge. In 1988, he became justice of the Supreme Court, and from 1994 to 2000 he served as the president of the Constitutional Court. Kim is currently counsel for Nexus Law Group.
While Kim’s center-right political stance is similar to that of President-elect Park Geun-hye, he has a history of passing politically unbiased rulings, even during the authoritarian administration of her father Park Chung-hee.
In 1963, Kim ruled against the detention of former Army Chief of Staff Song Yo-chan who had been under arrest for opposing Park Chung-hee running for president that year.
Kim is said to have contributed to enhancing people’s right to pursue happiness as he ruled in favor of the sale of bottled water during his service at the Supreme Court.
During his tenure at the Constitutional Court, he ruled against laws that banned marriage between men and women who share the same family lineage, abolished pre-censorship of films and incentive systems for men who served in the military.
After he stepped down from the top post at the Constitutional Court, he has been expanding social careers by taking various posts from advisors to courts and the prosecution, to chairman of the Community Chest of Korea, a non-profit fundraising body.
He kept himself distanced from the politics for years but joined Park Geun-hye’s presidential election campaign as co-chairman of the Central Elections Committee late last year.
Park has been paying deep respect to Kim, saying that his professional career and personality are all in line with her philosophy of following strong moral principle.
“I highly respect this person, who incarnates the Saenuri Party’s cherished values, law and principles, and the constitutional spirit,” Park said in October when she appointed Kim as co-chair of her campaign committee.
The former top judge proved her assessment right, exerting a calm and credible leadership within the election committee dogged by conflicts over key policies and verbal gaffes against liberal foes.
Soon after Park won the presidential election, Kim was named chairman of the transition committee for Park’s incoming government.
The prime minister is second in line to the president. Korean prime ministers have exercised a limited power over government offices and played a largely ceremonial role.
Park, however, has pledged to give the prime minister greater responsibilities in her government. The nominee for prime minister must undergo a parliamentary hearing by Feb. 10. The inauguration of Park’s administration is slated for Feb. 25.
By Cho Chung-un (firstname.lastname@example.org