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Some fishy real estate

Mar 16,2017
It is a pity that Lee Seon-ae, tapped by the chief of the Supreme Court to fill the seat of former acting Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court, Lee Jung-mi, who retired Monday after delivering a historic verdict removing President Park Geun-hye from office, has come under allegations of real estate speculation.

The nominee, who faces a confirmation hearing at the National Assembly, was charged by a Minjoo Party lawmaker for underreporting her 2009 sale of an apartment property from which she profited 585 million won ($509,892), by nearly 200 million won. Rep. Park Joon-min also claimed that Lee owns multiple apartments in southern Seoul neighborhoods under the name of her husband as well as a condominium home in Bundang, an expensive bed town outside Seoul, without living in any of them.

The accusations were made after scrutiny over the documents presented for her confirmation hearing. Since real estate speculation involves moral integrity, the allegations must be thoroughly reviewed.

Recommending her to the vacant bench seat at the Constitutional Court, Supreme Court Chief Justice Yang Seung-tae lauded her as the symbol of hope for her life triumph over various hardships. She learned law as the stepdaughter to a street merchant and worked as a lawyer for the poor and weak after serving 12 years as a judge. Many had been impressed by her success story. They came to understand the influence of the highest court after watching how it humbled a mighty president with its ruling. They did not doubt the judgment of the bench because of confidence in their moral integrity.

Given public sentiment, real estate assets should be the top criteria in judging the eligibility of a senior public official. Many nominees to senior office had been rejected because of their questionable deals in real estate assets. The Supreme Court chose Lee because she had not only the virtues fit to be a justice as well as the morality and will to serve the people. The confirmation hearing must look into the truth in the accusations.

Lee must leave no doubts in order to earn the justice title. No moral flaws can be tolerated for the highest court judge upholding the Constitution. She must explain herself before the March 24 hearing. The deeds must not be excused as customary practices of the real estate industry.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 15, Page 30