The Supreme Court in limbo

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The Supreme Court in limbo

The 19th National Assembly that was inaugurated 27 days ago immediately entered a hiatus after the ruling and opposition parties went on wrangling over pre-opening conditions. The legislative stalemate could delay confirmation of four appointed justices and disrupt trials in the highest court. But lawmakers are, nevertheless, preoccupied with their customary battle of interests.

Three of the actions held up are a legislative investigation into illegal government surveillance activities, a hearing on strikes in media organizations and allocations of chairpersons on standing committees.

The ruling Saenuri Party proposes to organize a special team of prosecutors to probe the government surveillance activities while the main opposition Democratic United Party wants broader legislative questioning of government officials in the case. The DUP blames government intervention in media for the prolonged strikes at nationwide public TV network MBC and demands a hearing, while the Saenuri Party opposes such political interference. Both sides stand strong on their hearings stance in light of the upcoming the presidential campaign in December.

If the legislative deadlock drags on until Justice Park Ill-hoan retires on July 10, the Supreme Court would be missing four justices on its bench due to a delay in confirmation of appointees. The highest body of the court, which requires a consensus of 13 justices, and the petty benches, which have four justices, cannot operate due to vacancies.

The Supreme Court in a statement last week demanded that lawmakers comply with their duty of confirming justice nominees in order not to incapacitate the highest court. The nominations were filed with the Assembly on June 15 and under the confirmation law, the legislature must deliver an outcome by July 5. It is the public who will be victimized by delays in trials. The Saenuri and DUP are separately examining the nominees in a gesture to avoid criticism of neglect of duty.

The confirmation of justice nominees and an array of bills await legislative attention. The 19th Assembly is already drawing skepticism over its sincerity and integrity. It must immediately get to work and commit to what they were elected and paid by voters to do.
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