Aides to the chief justice of the Supreme Court said Thursday he would resign, and 279 judges called for a judicial system that would protect basic rights and be independent of the executive branch.

The aides said Chief Justice Kim Yong-chul would formally offer his resignation Friday to President Roh Tae-woo.Opposition parties had called for a new chief justice to reform the "tarnished" judiciary.

On Wednesday, 85 junior judges called for sweeping judicial reforms and an overhaul of the nation's highest court. It was the first time in modern Korean history that judges staged a collective action to support reforms.

"The judiciary is facing a crisis because it has done little to reform itself despite high popular expectations for democracy," the judges said in a statement.

Thursday, 194 more judges across the country issued statements supporting the statement, and the number is expected to swell. South Korea has a total of 940 judges.

In a conference Thursday, senior government and governing party officials decided to accept Kim's resignation. But they expressed regret over the judges' action, which they said would have a serious political and social effect.