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Cho Hee-dae becomes chief justice, ending monthslong leadership vacuum

Dec. 8, 2023 - 17:18 By Son Ji-hyoung
President Yoon Suk Yeol (left) shakes hands with Chief Justice nominee Cho Hee-dae at the celebration of Cho's confirmation at the presidential office on Friday. (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol on Friday approved his nomination of Cho Hee-dae as the new chief justice of South Korea's top court, ending the rare, monthslong judiciary leadership vacuum.

Yoon's approval came hours after the National Assembly voted 264-18 for the nomination of Cho, who was formerly a Supreme Court justice until his retirement in 2020. Cho passed the parliament's confirmation hearing earlier this week.

Cho, 66, will take office on Monday. A chief justice normally serves six years in a term, but he will have to step down early since he reaches the retirement age of 70 in June 2027.

The news comes a month after Yoon named Cho, a then-distinguished chair professor of Sungkyunkwan University Law School, as the nominee.

His predecessor, Kim Myeong-su, departed the role after his six-year term ended on Sept. 22, leaving the nation's top judiciary leadership post vacant for the first time since 1993. In Korea, the chief justice of the Supreme Court ranks third in precedence, following the president and speaker of the National Assembly.

In October, nominee Lee Gyun-yong was voted down by the parliament, as the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea -- which controls a majority of the seats -- opposed the nomination, citing his failure to declare assets and controversies over Lee's past rulings as a former court judge. Lee was named the chief justice nominee in August by Yoon.