An embattled nominee to South Korea’s top court has withdrawn his nomination amid mounting pressure over his alleged ethical lapses, defusing a looming political standoff between the rival parties.
Kim Byung-hwa, one of four Supreme Court justice nominees, said in a statement late Thursday that he was stepping aside because a delay in forming a new bench would cause a problem for the country.
Kim had been under pressure to withdraw his nomination over his alleged real estate speculation and other suspected wrongdoings. He has dismissed the accusations as “groundless.”
Kim’s withdrawl resolved one of the key political disputes between the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP).
The DUP welcomed his departure, calling it “a victory for the people” and said it will vote on the other three nominees in the coming days.
The ruling Saenuri Party, which had defended Kim, also said it will adopt a report on the three nominees next Wednesday, a process needed for a parliamentary vote on the nominees.
President Lee Myung-bak nominated four judges on June 15, but the parliament has yet to approve them, leaving the 13-member top court in limbo.
More than 150 of 300 lawmakers need to be present at the parliament to put the nomination to a vote. Of the minimum 151, a majority of approval votes, at least 76, is needed to endorse the nomination.
The ruling Saenuri Party has 149 seats, followed by the DUP with 127, the minor opposition Unified Progressive Party with 13, and another minor party and independent lawmakers with 11.