Seoul constitutional court chief wants early ruling on Park

Seoul, Jan 31 (IANS) The outgoing chief of the Constitutional Court insisted on Tuesday that the impeachment trial of President Park Geun-hye should end as soon as possible in line with the wishes of the people.

Park Han-chul made the remark during his retirement ceremony, ending a six-year term as a member of the nine-member bench, just days after he first raised the need to deliver a ruling by March 13, the retirement date of fellow Justice Lee Jung-mi, Yonhap news agency reported.

He voiced concern at the time that an additional vacancy on the bench could lead to a “distorted” ruling”.

“In light of the gravity of the situation in which the President has been suspended from duties for nearly two months, the entire nation likely is united in the view that a conclusion must come as soon as possible,” he said during the ceremony held at the court.

Park was impeached by Parliament in December over allegations she let her friend Choi Soon-sil meddle in state affairs and extort money from conglomerates on Park’s behalf.

The President claimed innocence and denied knowledge of her friend’s suspected crimes.

The court has until early June to decide whether to uphold or reject the impeachment, with approval from at least six justices required to unseat the President. If Park is formally removed from office, South Korea will hold a presidential election within 60 days.

Park Han-chul urged fellow justices and the court’s staff to fulfill their duty to defend the Constitution by “strictly” reviewing the case.