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Pressure on Moon to ditch Lee Mi-sun grows

Apr 16,2019
President Moon Jae-in is facing growing pressure to withdraw his nomination of Lee Mi-sun as Constitutional Court justice, as a poll released Monday indicated public disapproval of his pick and the main opposition party asked the prosecution and financial authorities to investigate Lee and her husband over insider trading suspicions.

According to the latest poll from Realmeter, 54.6 percent of the people said Lee is unfit to serve as the Constitutional Court justice while 28.8 percent said she is fit to serve the post. Another 16.6 percent said they had no opinion or did not respond. The survey was conducted on Friday.

The poll was released on the deadline for the National Assembly to adopt a report on Lee’s confirmation hearing. Following Moon’s nomination of Lee, a senior judge of the Seoul Central District Court, last month to join the Constitutional Court bench, the legislature held the hearing on Wednesday. The deadline for the lawmakers to send a report to Moon was Monday.

While the lawmakers’ opinion in the report is not binding, it serves as political pressure on Moon. If the lawmakers refuse to endorse her, Moon can still go ahead and finalize her appointment.

At the hearing last week, the lawmaker scrutinized her and her husband’s stock investments. Lee and husband Oh Choong-jin together own 4.26 billion won ($3.76 million) in assets, 83 percent of which are in 3.5 billion won worth of stocks.

Oh is a partner at one of Korea’s largest law firms. After serving as a judge for 13 years, he joined Lee & Ko and mainly works on intellectual property litigation.

The couple was accused of using inside information obtained through their trials to invest in stocks.

The conservative opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) and Bareunmirae Party took a step further on Monday to open a criminal investigation against Lee and Oh.

Rep. Choi Gyo-il and three other lawmakers of the LKP visited the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office in the morning and submitted a petition for an investigation to be launched against Lee and Oh on charges of violating the Act on Prevention of Corruption and the Financial Investment Services and Capital Markets Act. They also said Lee and Oh were suspected of leaking confidential information obtained through their jobs.

The LKP said Lee was suspected of investing in stocks with her husband using information she obtained in 2017 while presiding over a trial concerning a subcontractor of construction firm eTEC Engineering and Construction. The opposition party also accused her of violating the Financial Investment Services and Capital Markets Act by investing in Sam Kwang Glass, an affiliate of eTEC Engineering and Construction, based on information she obtained while presiding over a trial involving the construction firm.

Secretary General Oh Shin-hwan of the Bareunmirae Party also paid a visit to the Financial Services Commission and submitted a request to open an investigation into Lee’s suspected insider trading. He said the party requested an investigation into Lee’s five purchases of eTEC Engineering and Construction stocks, worth 50 million won, shortly before the company announced a major business contract in 2018. He also asked to investigate her husband’s 34 purchases of the company stocks, worth 650 million won in total.

After their controversial investment was criticized, Lee sold all her stocks, while Oh said he will sell his stocks if Lee is appointed to the post.

The LKP also condemned the Blue House for its attempt to ram through the appointment. “Presidential Secretary for Legal Affairs Kim Hyeong-yeon reportedly asked Oh, husband of Lee, to write a post to justify their investments,” LKP Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn said Monday. “Senior Presidential Secretary for Civil Affairs Cho Kuk, then, copied this explanation and spread it through KakaoTalk chats. They are supposed to take responsibility for this failed nomination, but they are actually engaging in a public affairs campaign.”

Rep. Kim Kwan-young, floor leader of the Bareunmirae Party, also said Monday that Cho is the main culprit behind the Moon government’s failed vetting process of top officials. He said the ruling party and the administration are demanding that opposition politicians abandon their responsibility to scrutinize top officials just because they gave up on their duty to vet them.

The ruling Democratic Party and the progressive Justice Party said Monday they are supportive of Lee’s nomination to the Constitutional Court. They said Lee has the abilities to serve on the court, and that her stock investment was controversial, but not illegal.

Moon is expected to ask the National Assembly to send her confirmation hearing report, a step indicating his intention to go ahead with the appointment. If the legislature fails to do so before a new deadline is assigned by Moon, he can appoint her without the report. If the appointment is made, Lee will be the 11th minister-level official appointed by Moon without the National Assembly’s confirmation hearing report.

BY SER MYO-JA, KIM JUN-YOUNG [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]


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