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The vacancy of Supreme Court chief justice ends after 75 days

The vacancy of Supreme Court chief justice ends after 75 days

Posted December. 09, 2023 09:28,   

Updated December. 09, 2023 10:19


The motion to appoint Cho Hee-dae as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court successfully passed the National Assembly on Friday. During the Yoon Suk Yeol administration, 20 candidates underwent personnel hearings without the adoption of progress reports, leading to conflicts between the ruling and opposition parties. However, in a notable departure from this trend, the personnel hearing progress report for Cho was unanimously adopted by the ruling and opposition parties on that day. This marks the first instance under the Yoon Suk Yeol administration, where an appointment was made without disagreement between the two political factions. President Yoon officially presented the appointment letter to Chief Justice Cho later in the afternoon. Observers in the political arena have noted that “President Yoon has demonstrated the possibility of reaching an agreement between the ruling and opposition parties by nominating a candidate who is acceptable to both sides.” This achievement comes as a resolution to the leadership vacuum that persisted for 75 days following the retirement of Chief Justice Kim Myeong-soo on Sept. 24, this year.

On the same day, the National Assembly convened a plenary session. It successfully passed the motion for Cho's appointment with a voting outcome of 264 in favor, 18 against, and 10 abstentions out of 292 members present. Both the ruling People Power Party (with 111 seats) and the Democratic Party of Korea (with 167 seats) voted in favor of the appointment. The requirements for passing the motion to appoint the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court include the presence of a majority of the members present and the approval of a majority of those present. This contrasts a previous incident where the motion to appoint Lee Kyun-yong as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was rejected during a plenary session, marking the first such rejection in 35 years. The rejection stemmed from controversy surrounding Lee's qualifications, particularly his failure to report assets related to unlisted stocks.

The National Assembly’s Special Committee on Personnel Hearing unanimously approved Cho's confirmation report with the unanimous consent of all 13 members before the plenary session. “Cho scarcely faced issues related to personal information and morality, which are frequently raised in the case of candidates for high-ranking public officials,” the special committee stated in its report. “Cho has demonstrated a clear vision and specific plans for judicial reform, addressing concerns such as trial delays and the excessive use of warrants.”

Seong-Taek Jeong neone@donga.com