Final arguments in Pres. Park’s impeachment trial to be held on Feb. 24

Posted on : 2017-02-17 16:43 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Decision on whether impeachment of Park will be upheld likely to come before Mar. 13, followed by presidential election within 60 days
hearing in the trial on President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment
hearing in the trial on President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment

South Korea’s Constitutional Court announced that the final arguments in the impeachment trial of President Park Geun-hye would be held in a hearing on Feb. 24. This makes it likely that a decision will be made before Mar. 13, when Justice Lee Jung-mi’s term ends.

Lee Jung-mi, acting chief justice of the Constitutional Court, stated on Feb. 16 during the 14th hearing of Park’s impeachment trial that the court was planning to “conclude the arguments after the [last] five witnesses have been questioned on Feb. 24.”

“Following the suspension of the powers of the president, who is the commander in chief and the head of the executive branch of government, the vacuum in the government and the resulting chaos in society have continued for more than two months. Under such circumstances the trial cannot be allowed to go on and on,” Lee said.

“We have made an effort to hear this case both swiftly and fairly. We have questioned dozens of witnesses, looked into the vast record of the investigation, made factual inquiries to dozens of agencies, received their responses, and gained a thorough understanding of this case that is also faithful to the briefs,” Lee said, emphasizing that the court’s review of the case had been adequate.

The Constitutional Court’s decision for Feb. 24 to be the final day of arguments in the trial increases the likelihood that it will reach a verdict before Mar. 13, when Lee leaves the court. During the impeachment trial of former president Roh Moo-hyun (2003-2008) in 2004, the Constitutional Court heard the final arguments on Apr. 30 and returned its verdict on May 14, after two weeks of deliberations. Furthermore, the verdict in an impeachment trial need not be delivered on Thursday, as in ordinary trials. Given these considerations, it’s likely that the verdict will be made on either Mar. 9, Mar. 10 or Mar. 13.

Attorneys for the National Assembly and for Park offered different reactions. “I approve the court’s decision to hear the final arguments on Feb. 24 and to end the trial, and I hope that this attitude will be maintained so that the vacuum in the government can be swiftly closed,” said Kwon Seong-dong, a lawmaker with the Righteous Party and a member of the National Assembly’s indictment committee. “We need to hold enough hearings to reveal the truth of the case, but the court has been pressed for time and decided to end the arguments too quickly,” said Lee Jung-hwan, attorney for Park.

If the Constitutional Court upholds Park’s impeachment, the presidential election will have to be held within 60 days of the day following the verdict, and the acting president will have to announce the date of the election at least 50 days before that election takes place. On top of this, every effort must be made to prevent the timing of the election, which is always a public holiday, from creating an extended holiday. This means that returning the verdict on Mar. 9 would make it hard to find an appropriate date for the presidential election given the public holidays clustered in the first week of May.

If the verdict is returned on Mar. 10, the presidential election could be held on May 9, a Tuesday; if the verdict is returned on Mar. 13, May 9, or May 10, a Wednesday, could be the date of the election.

By Kim Min-kyung, Bang-jun-ho and Song Kyung-hwa, staff reporters

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