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Embattled Judge Nominee Stays Silent

Posted September. 19, 2006 06:54,   


Jeon Hyo-sook, who was nominated as Constitutional Court chief judge, has kept her silence since September 8 when her nomination was crippled at the National Assembly.

Even though the opposition Grand National Party members and senior lawyers point out that Jeon’s voluntary resignation is the best way to settle this controversy, Jeon has not announced any position yet on this matter.

Cheong Wa Dae also doesn’t take any action, saying “Let’s wait until Tuesday when plenary session starts.”

In regard to this, a source from the ruling Uri Party said, “No communication about resignation seems to have been made between Cheong Wa Dae and Jeon. I also have never heard that Cheong Wa Dae asked Jeon to step down or Jeon expressed her willingness to resign to Cheong Wa Dae.”

Since Jeon is not a Constitutional Court judge now, she doesn’t attend the office. Considering information from the ruling party and circumstances around this matter, Jeon doesn’t seem to have any intention to step down now.

Jeon could have gotten a chance to clear her position when the chief presidential secretary Lee Byung-wan admitted last Wednesday that inappropriate process was involved during chief judge nomination. However, Jeon didn’t say anything about that.

In regard to this, Woo Yoon-keun, lawmaker of the ruling Uri Party, said, “To Jeon, this time must be a very embarrassing moment. She might think that her fame accumulated by working as lawyer for more than 20 years was seriously damaged by this incident. However, both to Jeon and Cheong Wa Dae, there is no choice but to wait until the controversy is subsided by compromise among political parties.”

In fact, Woo stated that in order to stress how difficult for Jeon to accept such a disgraceful resignation.

Another source from the ruling party also said, “Jeon may think that Cheong Wa Dae should take all responsibility of this incident.” Jeon, in fact, didn’t ask Cheong Wa Dae to secure six year tenures. She didn’t commit anything immoral to stand in her way. Thus, there is no reason for Jeon to step down voluntarily. It is viewed that Jeon may be keeping silence in order to push Cheong Wa Dae to solve this problem itself.

However, as time goes by, circumstances are turning unfavorable to Jeon. With press coverage stressing that Jeon’s resignation is inevitable, public opinion is following this point of view.

The rationale of part that calls for voluntary resignation is that Jeon already lacked proper qualification to be chief judge because she was entangled in disputes questioning her quality to be judge, and an illegal nomination process.

Despite the Constitution provision declaring that Constitutional Court chief judge should be nominated among Constitutional Court judges, Cheong Wa Dae, after dismissing Jeon from her Constitutional Court judge post, nominated her as chief judge and asked for approval of the National Assembly. In regard to this, Jeon said, during hearing, that she decided to resign to be a chief judge with a six-year tenure after receiving a call from Jeon Hae-chul, the presidential secretary for civil affairs. Confronting an attack from the opposition party members on the nomination process infringing the constitution, Jeon just responded by saying, “There is no problem.”

With the attack gaining more confidence, Cheong Wa Dae finally ended up admitting improper processes involved during nomination. At this moment, the important point is that the improper process is directly related to the infringement of the constitution. Jeon, who is a candidate for Constitutional Court chief judge, has followed Cheong Wa Dae’s point of view that violated the constitution. Experts indicated that it must be a critical flaw, particularly to a candidate of Constitutional Court chief judge.

Lawyer Lee Seok-yeon said, “I don’t think the matter is easily solved just by settling the dispute with political compromise. Since Jeon’s reputation as a chief judge was tarnished by this incident, she will be continuously attacked during her whole tenure because of the assumed lack of political impartiality,” adding, “Even if Jeon is appointed as chief judge after gaining approval from National Assembly, people will refuse stand trials and call for a right to receive a fair judgment.”

yongari@donga.com leon@donga.com