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The clock is ticking

Feb 24,2017
President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment trial is in motion. The Constitutional Court on Wednesday wound up pretrial hearings on witnesses after hearing out An Chong-bum, former senior presidential secretary for policy coordination. Since the legislative impeachment motion arrived, the highest court has questioned 25 witnesses and listened to defense arguments from the president’s attorneys 16 times.

The only procedure left is the closing arguments from the legislature and president on Monday. The court is expected to reach a conclusion on the validity of the impeachment before acting Chief Justice Lee Jung-mi retires March 13.

As the trial nears an end, attorneys for President Park have gotten dirty. Kim Pyung-woo outright criticized the bench of lacking judgment and fairness. He accused Lee of rushing with the trial to meet her term schedule. He blatantly requested 20 additional witnesses although there is one hearing session reserved for closing arguments. Park’s defense team has gone too far in disregarding the Constitutional Court.

Conflict has also heated up outside the court. Park’s supporters have decided to stage protests beyond peaceful means. Presidential candidates and politicians are also making comments aimed at swaying public opinion and pressuring the court for their political interests.

The divide has become so severe that some worry about a civil war in the making. But Park, who is at the center of this chaos, stays mum. She chose to not speak for herself in the closing statement at the Constitutional Court.

The next 20 days or so before the court hands down its final ruling will be the most tedious and tense period for our society. A new chapter in history will open after the court decision. Park will either will immediately lose her title upon a court endorsement for her impeachment. A presidential election would likely be held in late April or early May, in that case. If disapproved, however, Park would be reinstated.

Whatever the court decides, its ramifications will be huge. But there must not be any dispute over the court decision. Otherwise, we would be denying ourselves a law-abiding society.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 23, Page 30