Lee must step downLee Mi-sun, a Constitutional Court justice nominee named by President Moon Jae-in, told a confirmation hearing that personal affairs had not influenced her court judgments, claiming that wealth issues were entirely handled by her husband. She explained that her husband, a lawyer, had chosen shares for investment and that she had only given her consent. Placing the blame on one’s spouse is turning out to be fashionable among senior government officials. Kim Eui-kyeom, the former presidential spokesman, blamed his wife entirely for the suspicious purchase of a building in a redevelopment district in Heukseok-dong, southern Seoul. Are their titles worth publicly damning their spouses?
Of the couple’s 4.2 billion won ($3.7 million), 83 percent has been invested in stocks. Of that share, 2.4 billion won has been placed in a company Moon oversaw in court. How she could have been unaware of the stocks is also questionable when her husband bought 1,300 shares in her name and 4,100 in his own. It is no wonder lawmakers questioning her sincerity said she would be better off as a stock investor, not a judge.
Her problem should go beyond the confirmation hearing. The question of insider information behind her 367 suspicious share purchases is an issue that requires investigation. Lee Yoo-jeong, who resigned from his nomination as a Constitutional Court justice last year, was questioned by the prosecution for a stock trade through insider information and later convicted. A person suspected of insider trading cannot sit on the bench of the nation’s highest court. Senior government officials are removed from office in the United States even for employing illegal immigrants for household chores. Regardless of the gravity of the offense, a judiciary office cannot be upheld if the person in it is questioned for morality and behavior that goes against public sentiment.
Lee should come forward and resign from the candidacy. She has raised too many questions to qualify for the office required of the highest morality to make judgment based on the Constitution and legal conscience. She could face a legislative or civilian suit if she moves onto the Constitutional Court. Judiciary integrity could come under challenge if a justice gets embroiled in political debate.
During the confirmation hearing, Lee vowed to build a society in which everyone has basic rights and constitutional order is respected. But her rhetoric does not sound convincing if she cannot fully explain her stocks.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 11, Page 30