Ruling party leader‘s plea for cooperation on court nominee draws pushback

By Yonhap
  • Published : Sept 13, 2017 - 16:27
  • Updated : Sept 13, 2017 - 16:27

The sharp-tongued ruling party chief on Wednesday made a rare appeal to an opposition party for cooperation in the parliamentary confirmation process for the chief justice nominee, amid an unabated controversy over his political orientation.

Choo Mi-ae asked the People's Party to join her Democratic Party to approve Supreme Court Chief designate Kim Meong-su, but the minor party responded only with criticism about her earlier remarks that blamed it for the legislature's rejection Monday of another court nominee.

The People's Party with only 40 seats in the 299-member legislature is seen as holding a "casting vote," as the ruling party with 120 legislators can pass contested motions with its blessing.

"I urge (the People's Party) to make a prudent decision in line with the public sentiment rather than a decision based on partisan interests or aimed at bolstering its presence (at the legislature)," Choo said during a meeting with senior party officials.

This photo, taken on Sept. 12, 2017, shows Choo Mi-ae, the leader of the ruling Democratic Party, speaking at a seminar at the National Assembly in Seoul.

Her plea underscores growing concerns that another parliamentary rejection of President Moon Jae-in's key personnel choice could pose a major political setback to the ruling camp and further embolden the opposition bloc.

On Monday, the National Assembly voted down the confirmation motion for Constitutional Court Chief nominee Kim Yi-su amid objections over his "left-leaning" streak. The ruling camp accused the opposition of acting "irresponsibly and high-handedly, with Choo taking umbrage particularly at the People's Party.

A day earlier, Choo upbraided the minor party for "flaunting its presence and flexing its muscle through a shameless act." She also criticized it for only insisting the ruling bloc take the initiative in strengthening cooperation with the opposition-led legislature.

Such remarks only drew the ire of the opposition parties.

"It makes me wonder if she, with such an immodest attitude, can be called a ruling party leader," Park Jie-won, the former leader of the People's Party, said during a radio interview. "She should reflect on herself and seek an apology from the citizens (for the rejection of the court nominee)."

Kim Kwan-young, the party's secretary-general, called on Choo to "remain silent for the nation and president."

The conservative parties also pounced on her, calling for her to show "humility."

"Her behavior yesterday was the ultimate case of one in the wrong shifting the blame to the other," Chung Woo-taik, the floor leader of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, said, calling for her to take a period of self-reflection.

Ha Tae-kyeung, a senior lawmaker of the Bareun Party, stepped in the fray.

"I want to ask Choo if her main enemy is the North Korean regime or our opposition parties," he said in a statement dripping with sarcasm over the liberal ruling party's dovish stance toward the provocative state.

The two-day confirmation hearing for the chief justice nominee continued Wednesday.

Kim was grilled particularly over his ideological orientation, which conservative parties say could undermine the core judicial principle of political neutrality.

At issue was Kim's previous role in leading a group of liberal judges. Thus, the president's designation of Kim has caused consternation among conservatives that fear it could fuel the judiciary's swing to the left.

Kim's 2015 ruling in favor of a progressive teachers' union further reinforced the argument that the nominee appears politically skewed and thus incapable of rendering aboveboard rulings. 

Kim's appointment requires consent from a majority of lawmakers present during a floor vote that can be set up by a majority of all 299 legislators. The ruling party is far short of a parliamentary majority, necessitating opposition support. (Yonhap)