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Moon pleads for judicial approval

Before departing for UN General Assembly, an offer to meet parties
Sept 18,2017
President Moon Jae-in on Sunday made an appeal to the National Assembly to confirm his nominee to head the Supreme Court, regretting that his efforts to communicate with the legislature were not enough and promising a meeting with leaders of ruling and opposition parties to seek their cooperation.

Moon issued the statement on Sunday afternoon, before he departs for New York on Monday to attend the UN General Assembly. He said he is leaving for the trip with a heavy heart because of the security crisis on the peninsula and the uncertain fate of Judge Kim Meong-su, whom he nominated on Aug. 21 as the Supreme Court’s chief justice.

“The current chief justice’s term ends on Sept. 24,” Moon said in the statement, read by his senior press secretary Yoon Young-chan. “Unless the new head of the Supreme Court is confirmed, we will face the unprecedented situation that the judiciary will have no head.”

Asking the legislature to prevent the unprecedented vacuum in the judiciary’s leadership, Moon showed a humble attitude to persuade the lawmakers. “I have put efforts for smooth communication with the legislature, but maybe it was not enough, and that makes my heart even heavier,” Moon said. “After I come back from my UN trip, I will invite heads of each party [to the Blue House.] I will discuss national security and other pending issues with them and seek their cooperation.”

The appeal came after a series of botched appointments for top posts and Presidential Chief of Staff Im Jong-seok’s public apology on Friday.

Since last week, Moon’s plan to fill top posts in the administration and the judiciary faced resistance in the opposition-controlled legislature. On Sept. 11, the ruling party failed to secure the necessary few votes to pass the motion to confirm Justice Kim Yi-su to head the Constitutional Court. Its failure to persuade the People’s Party was seen as the critical shortcoming.

Park Seong-jin, Moon’s nominee to head the new Ministry of SMEs (small- and medium-sized businesses) and Startups, dropped out after the National Assembly, including the ruling party, refused to confirm him over his political, religious and historical views as well as ethical lapses.

The fate of Moon’s Supreme Court head nominee is still up in the air. Judge Kim, head of the Chuncheon District Court, was protested by conservative lawmakers for alleged “left-leaning” tendencies, and the legislature is yet to schedule a vote to decide his fate.

The designation of Kim, who formerly led a group of liberal judges, caused consternation among conservatives, as some fear it could fuel the judiciary’s swing to the left. Until the end of his term in May 2022, Moon will appoint 10 more justices to the top court’s 14-member bench.

The ruling Democratic Party said Sunday that the opposition parties should respond positively to Moon’s statement. It also urged the opposition parties to accept Moon’s proposal for a summit. Moon previously offered a meeting earlier this month, but main opposition Liberty Korea Party Chairman Hong Joon-pyo refused to attend.

The LKP said it has no intention to confirm Kim as the head of the Supreme Court. “Why is Moon obsessed with Kim?” Rep. Jeong Yong-ki, spokesman of the party, said, adding that the appointment is an attempt to control the judiciary.

“While his approval rating is dropping after repeated appointment failures, the president didn’t bother to issue an apology. The ruling party and his aides are high-handedly criticizing the opposition parties and insulting the National Assembly,” he said, asking Moon to withdraw Kim’s nomination.

The People’s Party, which has decisive power in the legislature with its 40 lawmakers, said the ruling party leaders must apologize first for having blamed them and attacked them after Kim Yi-su’s nomination was voted down. “The Democratic Party must make a sincere apology to us,” Rep. Kim Su-min, spokeswoman of the party, said.

She also said the People’s Party lawmakers will vote on Kim Meong-su’s nomination based on their own judgments without prejudice.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]