Updated August. 12, 2014 00:30
A new Supreme Court judge has been nominated to succeed the Chief Justice Yang Chang-soo whose six-year term will end on September 7. Chief Justice Yang Sung-tae recommended Kwon Soon-il, vice minister of National Court Administration (55, passed 22nd bar exam), as a candidate for a new Supreme Court judge to President Park Geun-hye on Monday. He will be appointed formally after a National Assembly hearing and a plenary approval vote. Hailing from Anseong, Gyeonggi Province, he graduated from Daejeon High School and studied law at Seoul National University. His other elite credentials include key positions such as Supreme Court chief research judge, Seoul High Court presiding judge, and Planning and Coordination Office chief of the National Court Administration.
If Kwon is finally appointed as a Supreme Court justice, all Supreme Court justices will be former judges. Outgoing Justice Yang Chang-soo is from academia, having served as professor of law at Seoul National University. In particular, nine out of the 14 Supreme Court justices are men in their mid-to late-50s who were judges that majored in law at Seoul National University. This gives rise to the criticism that the principle of diversity in the Supreme Court will be lost and the justices will be too uniform in background. Among the Supreme Court justices, the only members not from the law department of Seoul National University will be Justice Park Poe-young (female, studied law at Hanyang University) and Justice Kim Chang-suk (studied law at Korea University), just two. There are also only two women, Justice Park and Justice Kim So-young.
In the past, it was a long-standing tradition to have two Supreme Court justices who were formerly prosecutors and one from academia. The reason all Supreme Court justices are former judges is because the series of former prosecutor nominees appointments were refused. Kim Byeong-hwa, former chief of Incheon District Prosecutors` Office, recommended as a successor to former Justice Ahn Dai-hee, who was from prosecution, failed to make it through the National Assembly hearing in July 2012. Other nominees discussed thereafter were either refused by the nominee or had issues that disqualified them, which resulted in no former prosecutors being named to the Supreme Court. Having all members of the Supreme Court justices being from judge backgrounds will likely continue until the currently most senior Justice Shin Young-chuls term ends in February 2015.