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Court nominee struggles to calm concerns about her political orientation

2017/08/28 16:24

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SEOUL, Aug. 28 (Yonhap) -- Constitutional Court Justice-nominee Lee You-jung struggled Monday to quell growing controversy over her ideological orientation, pledging to strictly maintain political neutrality if appointed.

Since President Moon Jae-in nominated her earlier this month, conservative parties have taken issue with her backing for a liberal candidate in a 2011 Seoul mayoral election and her inclusion on the list of the ruling party's new recruits in the lead-up to the May presidential vote.

The opposition parties claim that her entry onto the nine-member bench would make the judicial institution vulnerable to political influence, and thus undermine its ability to render above-board rulings.

"I promise not to waver due to political considerations or external perspectives (if appointed)," Lee said during a parliamentary confirmation hearing. "I will seek to draw conclusions for all issues only from within the Constitution while deeply pondering on the spirit of the Constitution."


Constitutional Court Justice-nominee Lee You-jung speaks during a parliamentary confirmation hearing at the National Assembly in Seoul on Aug. 28, 2017. (Yonhap) Constitutional Court Justice-nominee Lee You-jung speaks during a parliamentary confirmation hearing at the National Assembly in Seoul on Aug. 28, 2017. (Yonhap)

Lee's appointment does not require parliamentary consent, but any intense disapproval could impose a political burden on the president as well as the designate.

The Ewha Womans University law school professor also denied the accusations that she, as a private lawyer, has supported or joined a particular political party based on her ideological beliefs.

"It is not that I supported a party, though I participated in a declaration to root for a person who can realize policies to protect the socially vulnerable and woman rights," she said. "I did not lead the declaration and joined it as my fellow lawyers urged me to partake."

   Despite her denial, conservative parties ratcheted up their offensive against her.

"(If the president) plans to press ahead with Lee's appointment as there is no way to put the brakes on it, (he) would face more unfortunate, difficult challenges," Joo Ho-young, the floor leader of the minor opposition Bareun Party, said during a party meeting.

"(The presidential office) should never make an attempt at implanting a person (in support of it in the court)," he added.

Chung Woo-taik, the floor leader of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, also staked out a stance against the nominee.

"(Her appointment) would be tantamount to an act that undermines the constitutional order," he said during a party meeting.

During the hearing, Lee was also asked to express her views about homosexuality. She opposed the idea of outlawing homosexual love, and said that the legalization of same-sex marriage requires building social consensus.

"Homosexual love is an issue that concerns an individual's sexual orientation, something that can't be legally banned," she said.