Assembly deadlock brings Supreme Court to halt

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Assembly deadlock brings Supreme Court to halt

A deadlock at the National Assembly is throwing a wrench into the functioning of the country’s top court.

After four Supreme Court justices retired on July 10, the court has been waiting for the National Assembly to approve the nominees to fill the empty seats on its bench.

With the four on the bench empty for a week, nearly 200 cases were delayed at the nation’s highest court. Due to the vacancies, it also became impossible to hold a trial in front of the full 13-member panel.

“As the vacancies continue, the workloads for other justices are growing,” a Supreme Court official said. “It will become more serious if more time passes by without appointments.”

Last week, the Assembly held confirmation hearings on the four nominees, but opposition representatives put one through the ringer. They said Kim Byung-hwa, a 57-year-old director of the Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office, had too many skeletons in his past. The disagreement between the ruling and opposition parties led to the voting on the appointments, initially scheduled on Monday, to be canceled.

Kim was grilled last week over allegations that he had received bribes to use his influence to scale down a probe into a savings bank. He was also criticized for alleged real estate speculation and a possibly draft-dodging son.

If Kim is rejected, he will be the first nominee to fail to go through the confirmation process since the legislature adopted the system in 2000.

After Monday’s voting was canceled, the negotiators from the ruling and opposition parties sat down for another round of talks yesterday morning, but failed to narrow their differences. After the talks broke down, the Saenuri Party criticized the main opposition Democratic United Party for obstructing the operation of the judiciary. “DUP lawmakers are politicizing the issue at the cost of the people’s right to speedy trials,” said Yu Gyeong-hee, deputy spokeswoman for the Saenuri Party, yesterday.

The Saenuri Party is outnumbered by opposition lawmakers on the 13-member special committee on the judiciary confirmation process. The committee has six Saenuri lawmakers, six DUP lawmakers and one Unified Progressive Party lawmaker.

If the legislature fails to approve the appointments by the end of this month’s session, the motions pending at the court will automatically be killed.

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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