The nominee for Constitutional Court chief resigned under pressure Wednesday following allegations of a string of ethical lapses, including tax evasion and property speculation.
Lee Dong-heub said in a press release he is stepping down to allow for a "smooth running of state affairs."
Lee's nomination, which is subject to parliamentary confirmation, has been in limbo for weeks over allegations he used hundreds of millions of won (hundreds of thousands of dollars) in official allowances for private purposes during his six-year term as a justice for the top court, among other issues.
"I am sorry for having concerned the public over the confirmation hearings for Constitutional Court chief nominee," Lee said in the statement.
During his two-day confirmation hearing at the National Assembly last month, lawmakers also grilled the 62-year-old over allegations of tax evasion, false address registration and taking his family along on business trips.
After the hearings, the confirmation process was put on hold due to a disagreement between ruling and opposition party lawmakers over his eligibility, which prevented his nomination from being sent to a full National Assembly session for a vote.
Despite public pressure to resign, Lee refused to back down and even said in several media interviews that he would not withdraw his nomination.
Lee's resignation comes 41 days after President Lee Myung-bak nominated him, reportedly with tacit approval from incoming President Park Geun-hye.
He was the first former Constitutional Court justice to be nominated to lead the court since it was established in 1988. He had served as a justice of the top court in 2006-2012.
The Constitutional Court is composed of nine justices who have six year terms, three of whom are appointed from nominees selected by the National Assembly.
The court has been without a leader since the previous chief retired at the end of last month.
Following Lee's resignation, the incoming president will likely pick a new nominee after she is sworn in on Feb. 25. (Yonhap News)