President Moon Jae-in on April 19, 2019 moved ahead with the appointments of two new constitutional justices, dismissing fierce protests by conservative opposition parties.
Moon's decision heralds the deepening of ongoing political strife, as the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) plans to take their outcry beyond the National Assembly.
While on a trip to Central Asia, the president used the electronic approval system to install the duo -- Lee Mi-sun and Moon Hyung-bae -- into the nine-member bench of the Constitutional Court. They both immediately took office for six-year terms.
"President Moon authorized the appointments of the two constitutional justices through electronic signing in Uzbekistan, where he's on a state visit, to prevent a vacuum in the justice seats even for a day," Yoon Do-han, senior presidential secretary for public relations, told reporters.
Lee and Moon are replacing Cho Yong-ho and Suh Ki-suk, both of whom retired on Thursday.
The LKP and Bareunmirae Party (BMP) have opposed the nomination of Lee, in particular, citing her suspicious personal stock transaction records. She had long served as a district judge.
Critics have condemned the presidential office's background check system for nominees to key posts.
The LKP and the BMP refused to adopt a report on Lee's confirmation hearing to be submitted to the president. Such documentation on confirmation hearings is not mandatory for the president to appoint his pick.
The main opposition LKP has warned that it will use every means to block the appointments.
"If the president finally presses ahead with the appointment of the nominee, Lee, we will fight till the end, mobilizing every means inside and outside the National Assembly along with the people," its leader, Hwang Kyo-ahn, said Thursday.
The LKP's floor leader, Rep. Na Kyung-won, claimed that the appointments of the two justices reflect the Moon administration's march toward a "leftist dictatorship."
"Now that six of the nine constitutional justice seats have been filled with those who follow the Moon Jae-in government's ideological inclinations, there's no longer any need to cling to a fight for law revisions in parliament," she argued.
The LKP plans to stage a massive demonstration at Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul on Saturday. Party officials said more than 10,000 people are expected to take part.
The political backlash against the president's choices portends the crippled operation of the National Assembly, where a host of bills are pending aimed at boosting the growth of Asia's fourth-largest economy and speeding up the government's reform drive.
Leaving for Turkmenistan earlier this week, Moon asked ruling party leaders to pass bills on improving the minimum wage adjustment system and expanding flexible working hours.
The president said convening a council among the ruling and opposition parties and the government can be an option to discuss ways to break the political impasse.
It remains uncertain whether opposition lawmakers will accept the proposal if formally made.
Asked about the council issue, Na said, "Now is not the time to talk about it."
The ruling Democratic Party urged the LKP to stop pointless political attacks and instead focus on discussing ways to improve the people's standard of living.
"The Liberty Korea Party has only sought to arouse public opinion (against the government) with fake news and mudslinging," its floor leader, Rep. Hong Young-pyo, said. (Yonhap)