South Korea's parliament approved President Moon Jae-in's pick for Supreme Court chief justice on Thursday, ending a month of partisan bickering over his ideological orientation and avoiding the risk of another judicial leadership void.
Of the 298 lawmakers present for the vote on Kim Meong-su's appointment, 160 voted in favor and 134 voted against, while one abstained. Three votes were counted as invalid.
Kim, 57, will replace Yang Sung-tae, whose six-year term ends Sunday.
Since the liberal president named Kim to lead the top court Aug. 21, controversies have persisted over his alleged ideological tilt to the left.
Conservative parties have taken issue with Kim's previous role in leading a group of liberal judges, his 2015 ruling in favor of a progressive teachers union and his perceived advocacy for homosexual rights.
They claimed his appointment could fuel the judiciary's swing to the left, noting the chief justice wields enormous power in appointing some 3,000 judges across the country and in recommending all of the Supreme Court justices.
Over the last few days, the leaders of the Democratic Party had made frantic last-ditch efforts to drum up opposition support, amid fears that another parliamentary rejection of Moon's personnel choice would pose a major setback to the ruling bloc.
On Sept. 11, the legislature voted down Constitutional Court chief nominee Kim Yi-su in an unprecedented move that dealt a dispiriting blow to Moon and his party and escalated calls for the presidential office to overhaul its personnel vetting system.
Before departing for New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly, Moon made an emphatic plea for the opposition-led legislature to approve Kim, voicing concerns over a possible leadership vacuum at the top court. (Yonhap News)