Lee must clear suspicions

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Lee must clear suspicions

Controversy over Lee Dong-heub, the nominee for president of the Constitutional Court, is deepening after a spate of suspicions arose over his alleged improper behavior during his tenure as a judge in regular courts and the Constitutional Court. We cannot but express our worries about his qualifications as head of the paramount court, a position nearly on par with the president, National Assembly speaker and chief justice of the Supreme Court.

Lee faces a long list of suspicions: A false resident registration to allegedly seek more profit from an estate deal; frequent overseas trips on the court’s budget; a personal demand for donations from companies; provision of ill-conceived political funds; and a violation of the copyright law.

But that’s not all. Some opponents cast strong doubts on a surprising increase in his bank deposits and an alleged tax evasion over a capital transfer to his eldest son. Some insiders even forecast that he will probably try to wield influence on other eight judges to hold fast to his views after he takes office. The opposition Democratic United Party has already beefed up its attacks on the nominee and called for his voluntary stepping away from the appointment while demanding President Lee Myung-bak withdraw his nomination.

We don’t think that an attempt to boycott candidates for public offices - based on their ideological inclinations or regional backgrounds - is desirable. The head of the Constitutional Court is just one of the nine judges of the court, different from the chief justice of the Supreme Court who has administrative jurisdiction over personnel affairs of all members of the court, including judges. Lee’s conservative views alone would not necessarily change the overall direction of the court’s decisions, either.

Also, we can hardly dismiss Lee just because he hails from the city of Daegu, the birthplace of President-elect Park Geun-hye. High moral standards and a decent personality are required of the head of the court as it is an important post for reaching a final decision on many sensitive issues - politically, economically and socially. Therefore, distrust of the chief’s personal integrity undoubtedly will lead to a critical loss of people’s trust. That’s why he must provide reasonable answers to all the suspicions directed toward him from the past.

Lee is scheduled to go through a screening process at a National Assembly confirmation hearing for two days starting on Jan. 21. He must clarify his positions on the allegations. We hope our lawmakers from both sides of the aisle thoroughly examine his qualifications way beyond their political differences.
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