Troubled nominee for Constitutional Court quits

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Troubled nominee for Constitutional Court quits

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Lee Dong-heub

Lee Dong-heub, the controversial nominee for chief justice of the Constitutional Court, abandoned his nomination yesterday after accusations he fiddled expenses as a judge at the court.

“I apologize for causing concern to people regarding the confirmation hearing,” Lee said in a statement released yesterday. “For a smooth operation of state affairs, today I resign as nominee to be the chief justice of the Constitutional Court.”

The 62-year-old former justice of the court was chosen by outgoing President Lee Myung-bak with the approval of incoming President Park Geun-hye on Jan. 3.

“Lee made a phone call at around 6:30 p.m. today and sent a statement that he wrote by himself,” a Constitutional Court official told Yonhap News Agency.

It had been 41 days since Lee was anointed to the nominee.

He was grilled at confirmation hearings on Jan. 21-22 on allegations that he pocketed expense money from the court and skimped on air tickets to pocket the difference.

Lee dropped out of the public eye for 15 days and gave an interview to the JoongAng Ilbo Feb. 5, saying he had led a “blameless life.”

During the interview, he said he refused to give up the nomination and expected legislators to fulfill their responsibility to vote on the nomination.

While the ruling Saenuri Party has called for a vote, the main opposition Democratic United Party refused it and continued to pressure Lee to step down.

Lee said in the interview, “My dignity has been stolen from me. For me, what matters is not the position. Restoring my reputation is more important than anything else.”

Lee also said he was willing to return all the expenses he was reimbursed over the past six years, which amounted to about 300 million won ($276,497).

Lee didn’t say why he changed his mind in the statement.

Lee Sang-il, a spokesman of the ruling Saenuri Party, told a press conference that the party “respects his decision.”

Park Yong-jin, a spokesman of the Democratic United Party, said, “Although his resignation is a bit late, it is extremely fortunate for all of the people.”



By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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