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Vote on head of Constitutional Court delayed

Sept 05,2017
The National Assembly did not vote on Monday on the nomination for chief Constitutional Court justice, Kim Yi-soo, as two of the opposition parties opposed voting while the largest is now holding a parliamentary boycott.

It was expected early Monday that the 299-member Assembly would finally vote on Kim, tapped by President Moon Jae-in to head the Constitutional Court on May 19.

On Friday, the ruling Democratic Party reached an agreement with the three opposition parties - the Liberty Korea, Bareun and Peoples’ parties - that they would respect Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun’s exercise of his authority to directly introduce the vote on Kim’s nomination during Monday’s session, the fourth day of the ongoing 100-day regular session.

Kim has already been serving as acting chief justice of the Constitutional Court since March 14, one day after then-acting chief justice, Lee Jung-mi, who read the court’s decision to oust then-President Park Geun-hye in a landmark verdict on March 9, stepped down from the eight-member bench upon serving out her six-year term.

Though more than 100 days have passed since his nomination, Kim has not yet been confirmed for the post due to partisan conflict. But with the bipartisan agreement reached on Friday, expectation was high that he would finally be confirmed.

That expectation hit an unexpected hurdle as the Liberty Korea Party decided to walk away from all parliamentary activities - except for those related to national security, intelligence and foreign affairs - just as North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test Sunday.

The Liberty Korea Party is currently protesting an arrest warrant granted for Kim Jang-kyom, CEO of the local broadcaster MBC.

But even with the LKP’s boycott, the voting could have proceeded since the Bareun Party decided to participate in the legislative activity. The People’s Party, which has 40 lawmakers under its wing, made it clear that it has no intention of holding a parliamentary boycott of their own.

But it did express discontent about voting on Monday at a time when the largest opposition party was absent, prompting the speaker to delay the scheduled vote with no specific timeline being drawn up for when it will later take place.

“We have delivered our position that having a vote on Kim’s nomination at a time when lawmakers belonging to parties with negotiation power are absent from the session will not be a prudent move,” said Choi Myung-ghil, spokesman of the People’s Party.

If confirmed this month, Kim, a career judge, will head the highly esteemed court for only a year, as his six-year term there will end on Sept. 19, 2018.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]