Park Han-chul, the outgoing chief of the Constitutional Court, insisted Tuesday that the impeachment trial of President Park Geun-hye should end as soon as possible.
"In light of the gravity of the situation, with the president suspended from duties for nearly two months, the entire nation is united in the view that a conclusion must come as soon as possible," he said at a ceremony marking the end of his six-year tenure.
Park last week said the court should rule on President Park Geun-hye's impeachment no later than March 13, when another judge retires.
The final ruling must be supported by at least six out of the nine Constitutional Court judges, and only seven will be left when acting court president Lee Jung-mi's term ends on March 13.
The outgoing judge said it troubled him to leave his colleagues behind at a crucial time and urged fellow justices and court staff to fulfill their duty to defend the Constitution by "strictly" reviewing the impeachment case.
Meanwhile, the National Assembly panel that acts as the prosecution in the case told the court that the trial can continue even in the absence of the president's lawyers, who threatened to resign en masse last week in protest against Judge Park's call for an early ruling.
President Park's lawyers and other suspects in the massive corruption scandal have given the impression that they are trying to stall proceedings precisely because the judges' ranks are thinning and they hope that a smaller bench has less of a chance of agreeing.
Park Han-chul (right), the outgoing chief of the Constitutional Court, talks to judge Lee Jung-mi at his retirement ceremony in Seoul on Tuesday.