SEOUL: South Korea’s top judge urged his colleagues to come to a quick verdict on the impeachment of President Park Geun-Hye Wednesday, at his last hearing before stepping down.
The rapidly dwindling number of judges at the country’s Constitutional Court could throw Park a lifeline, after millions of people have taken to the streets to demand her resignation and she was impeached by parliament last month.
Pak Han-Chul will retire as the court’s chief justice next week at the end of his six-year term, with another of his colleagues following suit on March 13.
That will leave the court with only seven sitting judges, but by law six votes—a two-thirds majority of the full court—will still be needed to uphold Park’s removal from office.
As such, Park would need the backing of only two justices to return to the Blue House and see out her term.
The outgoing judges will not be replaced until a new president is elected.
The absence of two justices “could seriously distort the court’s decisions,” warned Park Han-Chul, who was appointed by the impeached politician.
The president was impeached over a corruption and power abuse scandal centered on her friend and confidante Choi Soon-sil.
The Constitutional Court has until June to decide whether to approve the decision, in which case new elections must be held within 60 days, or reinstate her.
An opinion poll by Real Meter published Wednesday put the main opposition Democratic Party’s presidential hopeful Moon Jae-In well ahead of a pack of five other candidates including former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
Moon polled 29.1 percent against Ban’s 19.8 percent, followed by another Democratic Party runner Lee Jae-Myung with 10.1 percent.