January 26, 2017 09:56
Constitutional Court justice Park Han-chul, whose term ends next week, said Wednesday the court should rule on President Park Geun-hye's impeachment no later than March 13, when another judge retires.
"Every single justice carries substantial weight in guaranteeing a full and extensive deliberation of a nine-member court," judge Park said. "Even one vacancy could pose a significant threat to the fairness of the verdict."
The court in theory has 180 days from the start of proceedings in late December to make its decision. If it rules in favor of impeachment, Koreans need to elect a new president within 60 days of the ruling, resulting in a new presidential election in late April or early May.
The decision must be supported by at least six out of the nine Constitutional Court judges, and only seven will be left after Judge Lee Jung-mi's term ends on March 13.
The announcement drew the ire of the president's lawyers, who have so far seemed to do everything they can to stall it.
The chief of the National Assembly panel that acts as the prosecution, Kweon Seong-dong, earlier urged a decision by early March at latest.
President Park's lawyer Lee Joong-hwan said, "If the court is repeating Kweon's earlier remarks, we have no choice but to question the fairness of the judges." He warned that Park's attorneys could resign en masse over doubts of the fairness of the court.
Park's legal team last week named another 39 witnesses in an apparent attempt to drag out proceedings, but the court on Wednesday approved only 10 of them. Legal experts said the decision suggests the court is refusing to be pushed around by the delay tactics.
- Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com