Published : 2013-03-21 19:32
Updated : 2013-03-21 19:32
After a long delay, President Park Geun-hye has picked a nominee to lead the Constitutional Court along with two new justice candidates to sit on the court’s nine-member bench.
Park nominated Park Han-cheol, who has served as an adjudicator of the court since 2011, to become its chief justice, a post that has been left vacant for 60 days since former chief justice Lee Kang-kook retired in January.
She also picked Cho Yong-ho, chief of the Seoul High Court, and Suh Ki-suhk, head of the Seoul Central District Court, to fill the two vacant seats of the Constitutional Court.
The court, which serves as the ultimate interpreter of the Constitution in Korea, should be composed of nine justices, but it has been operating with only eight on the bench since January. The number is to drop further to seven as Song Doo-hwan, who has served as acting chief justice since Lee’s departure, is to retire today.
In theory, the court can still make a ruling with seven adjudicators as a decision on the unconstitutionality of a law or a petition relating to the Constitution requires the concurrence of six justices.
But in practice, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the court to make a verdict with seven justices because there would have to be near unanimous agreement among them to hand down a ruling.
Yesterday, the court announced its rulings on the constitutionality of the Yushin Constitution and presidential emergency decrees of the 1970s, which were used by former President Park Chung-hee to prolong his dictatorship and crack down on opposition protests.
The court normally announces its verdicts every last Thursday of the month. Yet this month, it advanced the date by a week because the justices worried that they would not be able to adjudicate the politically important cases after Song’s departure.
Yesterday’s nominations will help the court avert a disruption of its operation. Now lawmakers need to help the court resume normal operations as early as possible by expediting parliamentary hearings for the nominees.
They are partially to blame for the vacancies at the court as they rejected the chief justice nominee who was picked by outgoing President Lee Myung-bak in January with the endorsement of Park.
During the hearings on the unfortunate nominee, Lee Dong-heub, opposition lawmakers raised a barrage of allegations against him, forcing him to drop out after waiting for his confirmation for 40 days.
True, lawmakers are entitled to question the competence and character of judicial nominees. But they should realize that they are not licensed to torment the nominees by posing endless questions about their personal matters not relevant to their competence or character.