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Kim Byeong-hwa, a Supreme Court Justice Nominee Withdraws
By Jung Je-hyuk
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Former Incheon District Prosecutor Kim Byeong-hwa, 57, gave up his candidacy for a Supreme Court Justice on Thursday, July 26. It is the first time that a nominee for this position has ever withdrawn due to a suspicion on corruption during the course of the National Assembly hearings.

By the nature of this case, two other persons will also share the blame: Supreme Court Chief Justice Yang Sung-tae who nominated Kim and Justice Minister Kim Jae-jin who recommended him.

Kim said Thursday afternoon, "Frankly, I sincerely would like to clear myself from all the baseless allegations about me. But I believe that it will be a bigger issue on a national level if the Supreme Court nomination and approval process should be delayed because of me: I concluded that my withdrawal will be the last and committed service I can offer to the country now."

He continued, "I am solely to blame for everything and I regret that I have caused such concerns."

Kim Byeong-hwa, a Supreme Court Justice nominee enters into the hearing venue at the National Assembly on July 11, to gain approval for his nomination. / Seo Sung-il

The former nominee was caught in a whirlwind of debate on the adequacy of his nomination, as a string of allegations was made during the National Assembly hearings regarding falsified resident registration, a bogus contract he might have written with reduced real estate price, tax evasion, special privileges for his son's military service and intervention in investigations on savings bank and the former Tae-baek City's mayor.

The Supreme Court stated on the same day, "We cannot help feeling shocked and distressed. We feel deeply sorry that we have caused concerns among the people during the process of our nomination and approval process." The Ministry of Justice also commented, "We feel very much baffled and distressed."

Kim's withdrawal seems to have been influenced by the negative atmosphere created among the major figures of the ruling party.

Speaker of the National Assembly Kang Chang-hee and Saenuri Floor Leader Lee Han-koo reportedly met each other Thursday morning and agreed that they would exclude the problem nominee and approve only the other three, subsequently notifying this decision to Kim.

A source from the ruling Saenuri Party revealed, "The public opinion was way too unfavorable toward Mr. Kim. I understand that some first-time lawmakers have prepared a press conference to state their objection to his nomination."

Park Yong-jin, spokesman of Democratic United Party, defined it as "the victory by the people and for common sense regarding the nomination of a qualified and adequate candidate." He also said, "It is only natural that the Justice Minister be held responsible for exercising his power of recommendation for Kim."

Apparently, it will take another two months or so to appoint a new justice, since the Supreme Court now needs to go through a formal procedure to call the Recommendation Committee for Supreme Court Justice Nominee to select another candidate for this position.

There are speculations that the next candidate to take Kim's place will be either a woman or someone who can represent the so-called social minority.

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