[Newsmaker] Cheong Wa Dae rejects speculations about Constitutional Court chief

By Choi He-suk
  • Published : Oct 18, 2017 - 17:53
  • Updated : Oct 18, 2017 - 18:22
President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday nominated Gwangju High Court chief Yoo Nam-seok as a Constitutional Court justice.

The announcement came just as Cheong Wa Dae denied reports that issues regarding the Constitutional Court president and the vacant justice position would be decided in tandem with the Constitutional Court Act revision pending at the National Assembly. 

Constitutional Court in Seoul on Wednesday (Yonhap)

“Yoo spent four years at the Constitutional Court working as a researcher of the Constitution, and as a senior researcher, he is well versed in constitutional rulings,” Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Park Soo-hyun said. 

“Yoo is highly praised for his character and professional capabilities, and he has been nominated as a Supreme Court justice and for Constitutional Court justice.”

Regarding the timing of Yoo’s nomination, Park said that Yoo had been reviewed according to protocol. 

Ahead of Yoo’s nomination, the presidential office refuted reports that a Constitutional Court president nominee would be named once the National Assembly approved proposed revisions to the Constitutional Court Act.

Cheong Wa Dae also denied reports that President Moon planned to hold a meeting Wednesday with his aides to make a decision on the matter by the end of the day. 
Gwangju High Court chief Yoo Nam-seok. (Yonhap)

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, a Cheong Wa Dae official said that no such meeting would be held and that the presidential office had not set any conditions for a nomination.

“We have never said the National Assembly legislating (the proposed revisions) is the precondition for appointing an additional constitutional justice and for nomination of Constitutional Court president,” the official said.

The Constitutional Court consists of nine justices when fully staffed. The court’s chief is nominated by the president from among the justices, who is then required to undergo a parliamentary confirmation hearing.

A revision to the Constitutional Court Act stating that the chief of the court has a six-year term that begins at the time of inauguration is pending the National Assembly’s approval. Current regulations do not define the duration of the Constitutional Court president’s term, but state that the term of a justice of the court is six years.

Since Constitutional Court Justice Kim Yi-su, who is the acting Constitutional Court chief, was rejected by opposition parties, speculation has grown that Moon would make his new nomination after the regulations are revised.

Some also speculated that the Constitutional Court may remain under the leadership of the acting chief until the end of Kim’s term in September next year.

While Moon weighs his options, calls for him to make a new nomination have been growing from the political arena, as well as the Constitutional Court.

In addition to opposition parties, the eight constitutional justices including Kim held a meeting and urged the president to name a new candidate for the post.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party, however, remains firm on its position that the president should name a constitutional judge, who will go on to hold the post of the Constitutional Court president.

However, the president appears unlikely to take the route suggested by the opposition.

A Cheong Wa Dae official on Wednesday told the media that nominating the Constitutional Court chief is a power given to the president under the Constitution. Saying that the method would significantly narrow down the pool, the official said that the president is not required to accept the suggestion.