The parliamentary confirmation hearings of new Constitutional Court Justice nominees kicked off Tuesday to replace two outgoing justices.
Conservatives hope that the new nominees -- Judge Kim Hyung-du of Seoul High Court and Jeong Jeong-mi of Daejeon High Court, nominated by Supreme Court Chief Justice Kim Myeong-su earlier in March -- would balance out what they see as the Constitutional Court's progressive tilt.
Nominee Kim told the Legislation and Judiciary Committee at the National Assembly confirmation hearing that he was "worried about the growing public distrust toward the justice system" in Korea.
The remarks came in response to Democratic Party of Korea Rep. Park Ju-min's request to take his stance over the recent Constitutional Court ruling that narrowly upheld a prosecution reform bill pushed through by the Democratic Party.
After the 5-4 ruling that stopped short of overturning the reform bill, ruling People Power Party Chairman Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon described the court as a "quasi-political cartel."
The ruling party head brought up the career background of the five Justices who voted to keep the bill intact, saying that all were affiliated to one of three left-wing organizations or academic groups, including Minbyun.
Five justices ruled in favor of reducing the prosecution's investigative power, allowing the launch of Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials, permitting a teacher to join a political party and confiscating slush funds belonging to deceased public officials, including disgraced ex-president Chun Doo-hwan.
"Any court ruling must deserve respect, and theoretical and reasonable criticisms over a certain ruling should be in place" instead of examining justices' backgrounds, Rep. Kim said. He added that he "cannot agree with the assertions that any of the justices lost neutrality due to their political affiliation."
Rep. Kim, on the other hand, said he "honestly had a point of concern" over the procedural lapse in the course of the prosecution reform bill's passage.
The main opposition Democratic Party of Korea, which controls the National Assembly, passed the bill to contain the prosecution's investigative power, allowing former president Moon Jae-in to sign it into law just before conservative President Yoon Suk Yeol was inaugurated in May 2022. The Constitutional Court narrowly admitted a procedural flaw in the 5-4 ruling.
The hearing on Jeong is scheduled to take place Wednesday.
Kim and Jeong will replace Lee Seon-ae and Lee Suk-tae. Lee Seon-ae's 6-year term ended Tuesday, while Lee Suk-tae will reach the retirement age of 70 in April.
Among nine justices of the Constitutional Court, the president has the power to nominate three. The Supreme Court chief justice and the parliament can also name three each. The court has three female judges.