South Korea’s Constitutional Court said Thursday it will conclude President Park Geun-hye`s impeachment hearings next week, suggesting it would deliver a ruling over the legitimacy of legislative impeachment on Park around March 10.
"The court plans to conclude the hearings on February 24 and wrap up pretrial procedures after hearing out the final defense as we cannot afford to let leadership vacuum and social unrest go on longer,” said acting Chief Justice Lee Jung-mi said during the 14th hearing.
The court asked both plaintiff and defense sides to submit their final statements by Feb. 23 and prepare for the closing defense by the following day.
Park`s lawyers asked for more time to prepare for final defense. The schedule could be tweaked a little, but the timetable suggests the court is determined to come to a decision before Lee’s term ends on March 13.
The court had until June to determine the motion that National Assembly passed on Dec. 9 to impeach Park for abuse of power and negligence of duty questioning her whereabouts during the early stage of the 2014 sinking of Sewol ferry. The impeachment would become valid through approval of out of a nine-member bench. Chief Justice Park Han-chul retired last month. Validity of the ruling could be challenged if it comes after Lee’s retirement that leaves just seven members in the bench.
At least two weeks would require judges to review and discuss before reaching a decision, which would make the second week of March the plausible judgment day.
The court has so far held hearings 14 times since the parliamentary impeachment. Two more witness hearings are scheduled next week.
By Kim Yoon-jin and Park Jae-young
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